17 March 2010

The Anti-Gay States of America

Constance McMillen wants nothing more than to attend her senior prom with her date at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Mississippi...but there is one hang up.

She wants to wear a tuxedo and Constance wants to attend her senior prom with the person she loves.  She doesn't see a problem with it, do you?  If everyone else could bring their significant others, why couldn't she?

The school district thought otherwise.  Instead of having an open mind, last week officials circulated fliers that said students could not bring same sex dates.

Luckily, the ACLU has gotten involved.  When McMillen and a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) gave the school district a deadline to rescind the ruling, the school board on Wednesday voted to cancel the prom rather than abide by McMillen’s wish.

I want to know what harm it will do to the school district, teachers, students, and the community if Constance wants to bring a same-sex date.  Really? We're not past this yet?  This is just the thing the South needs to end deep rooted prejudice in that area of the country.  More liberal places like Los Angeles and Miami, students are allowed to bring same sex dates.  Prom should be universal.  To me, it's a school dance where people bring dates, dance, and have a blast.  So because a student is gay, she shouldn't be allowed to participate in something so significant to a high school student as a prom?  What is wrong with The "United" States of America where a school district refuses to allow this?

The school district should crack down more threatening issues like drugs, weapons, hate crimes, bullying, hazing, etc., instead of wasting it's time on prejudice against a gay student.  How many school shooters are gay? How many bullies are gay?  How many gay students are violent?  My guess--very few.  How many straight students are bullies, violent, druggies, and worse? My guess--more than we'd care to imagine.

Being gay is not a crime.  Being prejudiced is.

I wonder how many people in the school district and how many teachers and parents involved in this prejudiced decision have Melissa Etheridge on their iPods and sing along, or how many of them DVR "Ellen" on a regular basis and laugh...or how many of them watch and enjoy "Will and Grace" reruns on TV. If the same people involved in this decision are guilty of the above, then they are hypocrites.

The Christian Science Monitor explained that on Thursday, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in US district court, charging that school officials violated McMillen's free speech rights when they told her they would enforce the district's policy requiring prom dates to be of the opposite sex.

The message this sends to the future generations of this country is instead of allowing a gay couple attend a prom, everyone gets punished by having the school district cancel the prom.  How is it fair for anyone?  Why are people so upset if there is a same-sex couple at the prom? Don't these people think that the two women they see shopping together in the grocery store could be lesbians?  Or a respected male doctor or lawyer has a boyfriend?

Because the school district canceled the prom on account of a same-sex couple, Constance fears for retailiation from her fellow students and is afraid to go back to school.  Students may be angry that they don't get to attend their prom because of her--but the real issue is they aren't allowed to attend the prom because the school district is prejudiced.  It's a shame that someone who stands up for what she believes in is afraid of retaliation and could be a victim of a hate crime.  I think she should be praised and commended for her bravery and willingness to put herself under such scrutiny just to attend a high school prom.

According to CNN.com, "I never thought the school would try to cancel the prom and hurt everyone just to keep me and my girlfriend from going together," McMillen said in an ACLU news release. "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."

Also, according to The Christian Science Monitor, when McMillen expressed a desire to wear a tuxedo to the prom, the district superintendent told her only male students were allowed to wear them, according to court documents.  Superintendent Teresa McNeece also told McMillen that she and her girlfriend could be ejected from the prom if other students complained about their presence, according to the documents.

I cannot commend this brave young woman enough for standing up for what she believes in and for who she is. If anyone should be prohibited from going to prom are the prom crashers, or kids who do drugs or are prone to violent behavior.  But no, no one stops them.  As long as they bring an opposite sex date, they're invited right in.  

I am ashamed of my fellow Americans.  This is 2010.  This is the time to start accepting gay people into society because we're not going anywhere.  Just because I choose to live my life with another woman, and love a woman instead of a man, does not make me any less human, any less American, or any less entitled to the same rights as everyone else.  The same for this 18-year old young woman and any other person who chooses a same sex partner.

I have an amazing girlfriend myself.  One day, I hope to marry her because we really have an great life together.  I can't imagine being with anyone else and I'm lucky as hell to have her.  Shouldn't that take priority over the fact that we're a same sex couple?  Shouldn't people who genuinely care about each other and are honest and fair and contribute to the betterment of society be accepted? We're accepted some places, in some states, but for a country that was based on unity, it sure as hell feels more divided than ever.

If the school district had just given this couple a chance to attend the prom and taken a chance to see how other students reacted, maybe they would have learned a thing or two.  Maybe there would have been retaliation or maybe some kids would have reacted with insulting words and actions.  But maybe, just maybe, this is what a conservative Southern school needs--to push for change and expect the best.  If you never try, nothing will ever be accomplished.

So for you Constance, high school prom is a big deal now, but standing up for yourself and your rights will always be a big deal.  It's people like you, especially at your age, who push for change and refuse to give up.  It's people like you who confront the prejudiced and hypocrites in this country and demand a fair chance. 

Constance, I hope after all this hard work, you actually get the opportunity to enjoy your senior prom.  And I hope you look beautiful in your tuxedo.

**McMillen image courtesy of The Christian Science Monitor**


Donna L. said...

This really moved me. Coming from a strong catholic family in a little town......even I am appalled at this school district's actions. How can they be so closed-minded?! It just floors me that people can be so mean and immature. I am at a loss here, for the life of me I can NOT understand what the big deal is. Lesbians/Gays......they are just as entitled to every right as us heterosexuals are!

KC Kelly said...

I agree...if I had wanted to bring a girlfriend to RHS prom at the time when I was in high school (despite being a decade ago), I can only hope even our small town would have allowed it.

KC Kelly said...

I was born and raised Catholic myself, even though I don't consider myself a Catholic anymore--but that has nothing to do with civil rights and liberties. This country was founded on the separation of church and state, yet still in 2010 people can't get their religious beliefs out of their minds and look objectively at society and realize that we're citizens before we're gay. So people don't want us to get married in a Catholic church because it goes against their religious beliefs...that's fine, but that has nothing to do with getting married in a court of law. Separation of church and state people!

Tara said...

AMEN! This story royally pisses me off. To cancel an entire prom b/c they are so against this girl wearing a tux and bringing her gf to prom is asinine and completely prejudiced. It is so sad that in 2010 we still have these kind of people in our country. Don't fight against the gays and lesbians. Let's fight against the haters! I will never understand people like this- they make me sick.

dogimo said...

I smell a remake of Footloose.

More seriously, I'm not sue-happy or anything, but if the school has canceled prom over this, the whole student body should pull together behind Constance and slap a class-action on their ass. Maybe a school doesn't have to hold a prom, maybe that's optional - but surely rescinding an already-planned prom for a discriminatory reason can't be cricket!

I'm trying to think of a good parallel, but I can't.

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