Constance McMillen is an 18-year old Mississippi girl who, like many American teenagers, was looking forward to attending her high school prom this year. McMillen, a lesbian, planned to attend the prom with her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo. Her school, however, decided that both were forbidden.
McMillen contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who sent her school district a demand letter. The school responded by canceling the planned April 2 prom rather than bowing to the ACLU's demands, releasing a statement on March 10 that said: “Due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events, the Itawamba County School District has decided to not host a prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School this year.”
Lesbian blogger Navy Wife wrote about her own experiences with prom, relating them to her current experience of being the “closeted” wife of a Navy officer:
While I would typically rant about her school board, I only feel Hope. Constance provides Hope in this crazy country that is denying us the right to marry, serve openly in our military, share benefits with our spouse, adopt children. Constance, at such a young age, chose to be who she is, without fear of judgment. She gives me Hope that in the near future we will live in a world where everyone can go to prom with who they like, dressed how they like.
I wish I could boldly stand up like her. For now, I will smile on the elliptical knowing that this young woman is out there, changing the world for us all. And I'll turn up my iPod and rock out, surrounded by all of the military personnel who assume I'm just another Navy Wife.
With the help of the ACLU, McMillen took the issue to court. On March 23, a Mississippi judge determined that the school had violated McMillen's rights, but would not force the school to reinstate its prom.
When the school-sponsored prom was canceled, a group of parents and private citizens offered to hold an alternative early April prom. McMillen, however, was given a false address and arrived at a fake prom attended by only a few students. The rest of the school partied at the real prom.
Plenty of bloggers agreed with the exclusion of McMillen, while many others showed an outpouring of support for her rights. Joe. My. God., winner of an LGBT blog award, was among the first bloggers to share the news of the fake prom, stating:
Constance McMillen has confirmed that a large fancy secret prom took place across town while she and special needs students attended what they were told was the “official” prom.
Marriage Tales, a blogger who says that she rarely discusses politics, shares an open letter to the parents and administrators who tricked McMillen:
I hope that one day you realize that instead of being the norm and taking the evil and hateful action you did, you had the chance to stand up for someone and make a difference and be the change. Instead you will grow up and maybe one day tell your kids that yes you went to prom like everyone else does in high school and you may or may not remember what you wore or what you did or who you went with and it won't be anything special. But you could have grown up and told your kids that you stood up for someone, someone who had the courage to be herself, even though it was different, and stand up for her rights. You could have been that person, taught your future kids that lesson, instead of being the person to lie, blend in with the crowd and refuse to stand up for someone else. Congratulations.
Pam's House Blend, another award-winning blog in the LGBT blogosphere, calls McMillen a hero, but wonders if she'd be better off leaving her small town and invites readers to chime in.
In another, related post, the blogger shares photos that attendees of the straights-only prom posted on Facebook and Flickr.
On March 24, Feministing blog linked to a CNN story reporting that lesbian talk show host Ellen DeGeneres helped arrange a scholarship for McMillen from digital media company Tonic.com. The author of Silence is Betrayal: A Feminist Blog wonders how so many people could have plotted against McMillen:
Was there no one to speak out against this? No one in the student body willing to tell McMillen and the other five students where the real prom was? And no one from the community planning the event thought to question how cruel this was?This town seems to be exemplifying the worst stereotypes of Mississippi: backwards, bigoted, and hate-filled. I hope McMillen takes her scholarship money and goes to a school with a diverse, welcoming community. She deserves so much better.
A Facebook parody group called “Constance quit yer cryin” has been created to support and share news of McMillen's plight. One member of the group shared news of a more hopeful sort: Constance McMillen has been chosen as the grand marshal of the NYC Pride Parade on June 27, 2010. According to the same article, she has also been invited to attend a lesbian-only prom in San Francisco later this year.