Mississippi school says 'no' to lesbians, prom

Constance McMillan is gay. She has been openly gay since the 8th grade. Now, a high school senior, her actions have cost hundreds of students their school-sponsored prom.

Twice McMillan asked school administrators if she could take her girlfriend to prom. The second time the question was posed, along with a negative response, a memo was sent out to the entire school stating that your prom guest “must be of the opposite sex.”

Feeling her First Amendment rights were being trampled on, McMillan contacted the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU threatened legal action if the school did not change its decision to let McMillan attend the prom with her girlfriend, and to allow her to wear a tuxedo.

The threat proved too much for school administrators, so they canceled prom. The school’s official statement, which can be found on the ACLU Web site, said the cancellation was due to “distractions to the educational process.” Perhaps enlightening students to the acceptance of gay people would enhance the educational process, not hinder it.

Unless they have a phobia of rainbows or RuPaul’s Drag Race, why would school administrators ban same sex couples from prom?

According to a 2009 Baylor University study, there is one variable that routinely contributes to a fear of homosexuals: religion. This makes sense, as religion is often linked with a history of violent persecution against dissenters, free thinkers and homosexuals.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that IAHS Principal Trae Wiygul and Vice Principal Rick Mitchell are pictured together on the school’s Web site with an “In God We Trust” plaque hanging behind them on the wall. Successful lobbying from the American Family Association, a fundamentalist Christian Organization headquartered in Tupelo, Mississippi has resulted in a state law that requires the plaques. Funding, however, for the posters was never provided by the Mississippi state Legislature, according to the Right Wing Watch Web site, so the AFA provided the posters out of pocket.

In an attempt to appear sympathetic to McMillan’s cause the school helped organize a fake prom to which only McMillan and a handful of other students were invited, according to McMillan’s statement in an April 5 article on The Advocate Web site. Several of the other students were special needs children, which makes one wonder if this was an attempt to show that McMillan’s condition is also seen as a disorder in the eyes of the administrators.

That may not be such a stretch considering the scientifically dubious organization known as the American College of Pediatricians, not to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics, recently put out a statement to all U.S. School Superintendents suggesting homosexuality is curable and is a choice.

This is a grievous exaggeration of the facts, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The academic discipline of science was also perplexed with the “findings.”

The courts have already acknowledged that the school has infringed on McMillan’s rights, and the case will soon go to trial. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated occurrence. The ACLU receives similar requests every year from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual high school students from around the country. It’s time to shed the fundamentalist religious ideology essential to anti-gay sentiment, and let everybody in on the party.

Noah is putting on his prom dress. You can reach him at noah.lewkowitz@asu.edu


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