Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dragging Mississippi into the 21st Century

Constance McMillen, an eighteen year-old senior at Itawamba County Agricultural High School in Fulton (MS) anticipated an annual memo outlining the rules for the prom, which in previous years had banned same-sex dates, by asking permission to be accompanied by her girlfriend, who would be wearing a tux.

School officials told her that she and her girlfriend couldn't arrive together, neither could wear a tuxedo and they may be asked to leave, if other students complained or felt uncomfortable.

Ms. McMillen sought the assistance of the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, which was formed to protect the rights of LGBT students, who put her in touch with American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU sent a letter demanding that the school change it's policy by Wednesday or face a lawsuit. As the deadline approached, the local school board decided to simply cancel the event "due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events".

The ACLU is now seeking a court order to reinstate the prom and to allow Constance to attend with her date, dressed as they like.

Notes: Itawamba is a rural county near Pontotoc, where school officials were sued about a decade ago to stop Bible classes and daily prayer.

According to Google:Maps, Fulton is a 116-mile drive from Charleston (MS), where the actor Morgan Freeman famously paid for the town's first inter-racial prom, an odyssey which was documented in the award-winning 2009 film, Prom Night in Mississippi.

Also, though the headline appears to be a bit misleading, one could argue that local reaction has been mixed and the media campaign waged by the ACLU has been drawing attention.

Update YouTube Thanks from Constance (via Feromoon, via Twitter)
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