Like most high school seniors, Constance McMillen wanted to go to her prom. One problem: she wanted to take her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo but her Fulton, Miss., high school’s policy required prom guests to “be of the opposite sex” and girls were required to wear dresses.
After McMillen’s failed attempt to get school officials to change the rule, the ACLU of Mississippi sent a letter on her behalf informing the school that their actions were illegal. The school ended up canceling the prom, keeping McMillen, her girlfriend and everyone else from attending. With the help of the ACLU, McMillen sued the school district and won.
“It was so bad," McMillen told Citydesk today. “It got to the point where I had to change schools altogether because I was harassed on a daily basis. One girl wore a shirt to school that said ‘No Prom Thanks Constance.' People were booing when I walked in the lunchroom. My best friend stopped talking to me completely."
The Itawamba County School District has since agreed to implement a policy banning discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It will be the first such policy in the Mississippi public school system.
“They are really sticking to it,” said McMillen. “My girlfriend called them up and said she is wearing a tuxedo in her senior picture and the superintendent told her that they cannot tell her that she can’t.”
People still talk about McMillen in her rural town of about 4,000 but, she says if they have kids that are different, one day they will thank her.
McMillen arrived in Boise today and will be meeting with local youth this evening at Boise State. On Saturday, she will be the keynote speaker at the ACLU of Idaho’s Bill of Rights Celebration and fundraiser, “Prom is for Everyone.”
“Hopefully I will inspire other people to stand up because it was really hard what I did, but overall, in the end, it helped a lot of people. So I’m hoping people will find it in themselves to stand up for things they believe in, “ said McMillen.