Same-Sex Prom Concessions
Special Report - April 23, 2010
A North Carolina high school recently modified its rules to allow students to bring “guests,” as opposed to “dates,” to the upcoming senior prom, after a gay-identified student requested to bring his boyfriend to the event. According to various media reports, the principal of Starmount High School in Booneville, North Carolina, initially told the student, Chase Wall, that he could not bring his boyfriend to the senior prom on May 1 as his date. Lisa Nixon, the mother of Wall’s boyfriend, complained to the principal and threatened to call the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the media with her story. “I told her when I spoke with her that if they did not allow him to bring a same-sex prom date that I would call the ACLU and I would contact the media, because this was wrong,” Nixon told Fox 8/WGHP news. The next day, Ms. Nixon received a response from the school principal, informing her that school officials had decided that her son could attend the prom with Wall, and that the school was changing its policy to clarify that students could bring a guest, rather than a date, to the prom regardless of the guest’s gender.
Efforts to force schools to allow same-sex couples to attend proms are increasing nationwide. One high profile case in Mississippi involved a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of Constance McMillen, a lesbian-identified high school senior, against Itawamba Agricultural High School for its policy banning same-sex prom dates. In response to the lawsuit, the school canceled its April 2 prom, allowing parents at the school to host a private dance elsewhere. In a preliminary ruling in the case issued March 23, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi ruled that school officials had violated McMillen’s rights by canceling the prom, although the judge did not order the school to reschedule its prom. After McMillen was not invited to the private prom recently hosted by a group of parents, the ACLU filed an amended complaint in the same lawsuit on April 21, alleging that “the district's violation of the free speech rights of McMillen . . . have repeatedly caused McMillen to be humiliated and harassed.”
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