A court has ruled that a lesbian teenager’s rights were violated when she was barred from wearing a tuxedo and taking her girlfriend to a school prom.
However, the Mississippi federal court would not force Constance McMillen’s school to reinstate the cancelled event, saying that a private prom was to be open to all.
Ms McMillen, 18, made headlines around the world for suing Itawamba Agricultural High School. She and the America Civil Liberties Union accused it of violating her rights to expression.
After she decided to take legal action, the school cancelled the entire event and told parents to arrange a private prom.
Although the court did not force the school to reinstate the event, it said it was assured that a private prom arranged by parents would be open to all students, irrespective of sexual orientation.
The student was initially not invited to the parent-planned event.
The ACLU was denied a preliminary injunction forcing the school to hold the original prom as District Judge Glen H Davidson said it would confuse parents’ plans for the private event.
He said he would hold a trial at a later date but any ruling was likely to come too late to force the school to hold the April 2nd event.
Ms McMillen and the ACLU can now amend her case to sue for damages.
Ms McMillen said in a statement yesterday: “It feels really good that the court realised that the school was violating my rights and discriminating against me by cancelling the prom.
“All I ever wanted was for my school to treat me and my girlfriend like any other couple that wants to go to prom. Now we can all get back to things like picking out our prom night outfits and thinking about corsages.”
The student said she plans to attend the private prom, but will also attend the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition’s Second Chance Prom, to be held on Saturday May 8th in Tupelo. The event is aimed at LGBT students, although it is open to all.
Previously, she said she had been blamed by other students for “ruining” their senior years. She has kept her girlfriend out of the spotlight at the girl’s parents’ request.
Kristy Bennett, legal director of the ACLU of Mississippi, said: “Today’s ruling isn’t just a win for Constance and her girlfriend – it’s a win for all the students at her school, and for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students who just want to be able to be themselves at school without being treated unfairly.
“Public schools can’t just stomp on students’ free expression rights just because they don’t want to deal with these students, and if schools do try to do that they’ll be dealing with us.”