Miss. teen gets second chance at ‘prom’

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 9, 2010

JACKSON (AP) — A teen who challenged a ban on same-sex prom dates will get a second chance to don a tuxedo and dance at an event in San Francisco often referred to as the ‘‘lesbian prom.’’

The National Center for Lesbian Rights has invited Constance McMillen and Ceara Sturgis, a Mississippi student who fought to wear a tuxedo in a yearbook photo, to its 33rd anniversary celebration on May 1.

The event is often referred to as the ‘‘lesbian prom,’’ said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. Nearly 2,000 people are expected to attend the celebration in San Francisco, Kendell said.

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‘‘With everything Constance has been through at her school over the past few weeks, we’re grateful for any chance to remind her that while her school violated her rights, she’s appreciated and respected all over the country for her fight to be treated equally,’’ Kendell wrote in a blog posted Thursday.

McMillen, 18, is a senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Miss.

She and the American Civil Liberties Union challenged her school district’s rule that banned same-sex prom dates and a stipulation that only male students be allowed to wear tuxedos to the event. In response, the school district canceled its April 2 prom and later announced parents would sponsor another dance in its place.

The ACLU believes the parent-sponsored dance that McMillen attended on Friday was a ruse because only seven students showed up. McMillen says the rest of her peers partied at another location.

Kendell said the NCLR plans to pay for McMillen’s travel and give her ‘‘a weekend she’ll never forget. It will make all these other proms and fake-proms fade into distant memory.’’ The organization is also paying for Sturgis.

Kristy Bennett, legal director for the ACLU Mississippi, confirmed McMillen will attend the NCLR event. Bennett said Sturgis is also expected to go.

The ACLU sent a demand letter to the Copiah County School District on Sturgis’ behalf last year after her picture was banned in the high school yearbook because she posed in a tuxedo.

Sturgis didn’t file a lawsuit, but McMillen did in U.S. District Court in Aberdeen. No trial date has been set in McMillen’s case.