Earlier this month, high school senior Constance McMillen made national news when her high school canceled prom, rather than allow her to attend in a tuxedo with her girlfriend as her date.
Yesterday a federal judge ruled against Itawamba Agricultural High School, determining that the school district violated the teen’s First Amendment rights.
In the 12-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson had this to say about the case:
“The record shows Constance has been openly gay since eighth grade and she intended to communicate a message by wearing a tuxedo and to express her identity through attending prom with a same-sex date. … The court finds this expression and communication of her viewpoint is the type of speech that falls squarely within the purview of the First Amendment.”
The judge stopped short of requiring the school to host the prom after all, now that a privately sponsored substitute prom has been arranged. Doing so “would only confuse and confound the community on the issue,” said the judge. “Parents have taken the initiative to plan and pay for a ‘private’ prom for the juniors and seniors of IAHS and to now require defendants to host one as it had originally planned would defeat the purpose and efforts of those individuals.”
Details of the case, Constance McMillen v. Itawamba County School District, et al, can be found on this website: http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/fulton-ms-prom-discrimination
As for Constance, she’s happy about the ruling, but still disappointed that all of this happened. “A lot of people have made really generous offers to pay for a prom somewhere else, which I really appreciate. But all I’ve ever wanted was to be able to just go to my own school’s prom with my girlfriend.”
A bittersweet victory, indeed.