March 13, 2010 by D Stack
Despite my eldest daughter seeming to believe that my life is pretty much a done deal (“Dad, don’t you feel sad that you don’t have a destiny?”), I’m still able to remember the Junior and Senior Proms back in High School being a Big Thing ™.
All through high school I was a single man – heck you could count the number of “serious” relationships I’ve had on one hand – even a pretty badly mutilated one would suffice. So it was important to find a date for the prom with a corresponding single lady. But if I were in a relationship, you could bet I’d want to bring my girlfriend to it.
Constance McMillen, an 18-year old senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, wanted to bring her girlfriend to her prom. But it turns out that IAHS doesn’t let you bring dates of the same sex. (Amusingly, it turns out the grandmother of a friend of mine attended an all-girls school when it was scandalous to bring boys to the dances, so the dances there involved all the girls dancing together). Constance questioned the policy and was told that she would absolutely be forbidden from bringing her girlfriend and if they attended separately but slow danced together or otherwise made others feel “uncomfortable” they’d both be thrown out.
Enter the big bad ACLU which sent the school a letter demanding they allow this. Apparently the school discovered that there is no Constitutional guarantee protecting one from being uncomfortable so they decided to cancel the entire prom due to distractions caused by “recent events”.
That’s a brave course of action. It would be like closing a restaurant because you have to serve African-Americans.
However, a public school doesn’t get to engage it discriminatory behavior. Indeed it violates Mississippi’s own codes:
It is the policy of Mississippi Public Schools to afford all persons, regardless of their actual or perceived race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, or gender, including gender identity, expression, and appearance, equal rights and opportunities in all of its educational institutions.
Refusing to allow a student to attend a school event based on sexual orientation is clearly a violation of that. The ACLU has sued, demanding the prom be reinstated. I wholeheartedly agree with that stand – the only reason they are canceling it is because they are not allowed to discriminate the attendees based on their sexual orientation. And that cancellation therefore becomes an act of discrimination. An entity in the private sector might be able to get away with that, but a public institution is now.
Moreover it is cowardly. It is an attempt to turn a high school student into a villain. I’ve read on various blogs, commentaries, etc. that Constance is bringing this upon herself for trying to rock the boat – that she is drawing attention to herself and ruining the prom for everyone else. But as far as I can tell she just wants the same rights that every other student has. I hope her classmates recognize this as well – she is not looking for special treatment, she is looking for equal treatment.