Student wins, but prom still off

A lesbian high school senior won a partial victory in a federal court in Mississippi Tuesday. U.S. District Court Judge Glen Davidson, a Reagan appointee, ruled that senior Constance McMillen, 18, had a First Amendment right to attend her senior prom with the date of her choice and wearing the clothes of her choice.

Officials at Itawamba Agricultural High School in the small rural community of Fulton, Mississippi, first informed McMillen that she could not bring a female date to the April 2 prom and could not wear a tuxedo. When McMillen enlisted the aid of the ACLU to defend her rights, the local school board called off the prom. When it did, the ACLU filed a request in federal court for a preliminary injunction to stop them from doing so.

But Judge Davidson did not grant the preliminary injunction ordering the school to hold the prom but advised McMillen that she could sue for damages because of the violation of her constitutional rights.

Davidson said McMillen’s desire to wear a tuxedo and attend the prom with a same-sex date constitutes “expression and communication of her viewpoint” and “is the type of speech that falls squarely within the purview of the First Amendment.”

According to the Sun-Herald newspaper in Biloxi, the school had an existing policy against same-sex dates when McMillen approached school officials in December to request permission to bring her female date. Officials refused and the ACLU, representing McMillen, sent a letter on her behalf, arguing the law was on her side.

In court, school officials said they had contemplated canceling the prom before McMillen raised the issue of attending with a same-sex date. They said they were concerned about alcohol and drug use at the event, as well as liability issues. But they conceded their decision ultimately was based on McMillen’s desire to bring a same-sex date.

In making his decision, Judge Davidson noted a similar case in 1980, Fricke v. Lynch, in which a federal district court in Rhode Island ruled that Aaron Fricke had a First Amendment right to take a male date to his prom.

2 Responses to Student wins, but prom still off

  1. […] federal judge ruled that high school senior Constance McMillen had a First Amendment right to attend her senior prom with the date of her choice and wearing the […]

  2. […] they canceled the prom rather than let her bring a same-sex date and wear a tux, a federal judge ruled that she had a right to clothes and a date of her choice. He did not ask the school to reinstate […]

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