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Constance McMillen – LGBT History Month Icon Day 24

Constance McMillen – LGBT History Month Icon Day 24

Constance McMillen had a tuxedo and a dancing partner. She was ready for the Itawamba Agricultural High School prom.

Since she knew arriving with her girlfriend would raise more than eyebrows, she asked the principal for permission to do what heterosexual students take for granted – participate in an all-school function. The answer was no. Fulton, Mississippi was not ready for that.

Constance had backbone. Rather than quietly accept disappointment, she contacted the American Civil Liberties Union. The Mississippi ACLU sent the school district and the principal an ultimatum and a deadline. On that date, the Itawamba County Board of Education published their response:

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. It is our hope that private citizens will organize an event for the juniors and seniors.

They organized it all right. McMillen and half a dozen others showed up at the country club. Everyone else went to a private party where the girls wore dresses and only heterosexual couples were allowed. McMillen was hurt but philosophical.

They [two students with learning disabilities] had the time of their lives. That’s the one good thing that came out of this, [these kids] didn’t have to worry about people making fun of them [at their prom].

McMillen’s classmates started posting photos of their prom night on Facebook. They also posted snarky comments, blaming McMillen for grandstanding and ruining their prom plans.

Somehow the soft-spoken honor student found the courage to keep fighting. The Itawamba County School District settled in July, paying McMillen $35,000 and another $81,000 in attorneys’ fees. They also agreed to implement policies to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

McMillen transferred to Murrah High School in Jackson and graduated in 2011. Now she is a psychology student at Northeast Mississippi Community College. Her education plans were helped along by a $30,000 scholarship from Ellen DeGeneres. Glamour magazine named her 2010 Woman of the Year. The New York Pride Parade chose her to be Grand Marshal, and President Obama invited her to the White House.

So things turned around for the gutsy young woman who dared to stand up to injustice. Thanks to her, the day when such blatant discrimination is a curious historical footnote moves one step closer.

Bibliography

Byrd, Shelia. “Lesbian teen accepts Miss. School district’s offer.” Washington Times. 8

June 2011.

“Constance McMillen, fake prom? Itawamba dance was kept secret from lesbian teen.”

Huffington Post. 8 June 2011.

Goldberg, Lesley. “Interviews with Wanda Sykes and Constance McMillen.” After Ellen.

8 June 2011.

Joyner, Chris. “Miss. School district settles lesbian prom-date case.” USA Today. 8

June 2011.

“Judge awards $81k to Constance McMillen’s legal team.” Pride in Utah. 8 June 2011.

Rozsa, Michelle. “Gay teens at center of controversies find support in each other.” CNN.

8 June 2011.

“ACLU complaint takes on “decoy” prom for Mississippi lesbian student.” ACLU. 14

June 2011.

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16 comments

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3:03PM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

Great and strong actions by a young woman and a better future for her than her former school"mates". I have a strong feeling a lot of those hatemongers will end up saying: "want fries with that?"
Wish you a very happy life, Constance McMillen!

3:12AM PDT on Oct 27, 2011

Thanks.

1:59PM PDT on Oct 26, 2011

Thanks for the article. She is courageous

2:54AM PDT on Oct 26, 2011

Thanks for the article.

12:38AM PDT on Oct 26, 2011

thanks

6:32PM PDT on Oct 25, 2011

She's a leader in the making. I hope her parents, grandparents and all her family are proud of her.

6:17PM PDT on Oct 25, 2011

BRAVO for her! What an amazing and courageous human being!!

7:28AM PDT on Oct 25, 2011

Constance took a stand that she intended to MAKE IT BETTER for fellow youth, both LGBT and heterosexual who are victims of homophobia. It is important now for more adults to "step up to the plate" and do more.

We have had too many suicides and attempted suicides from LGBT and Questioning youth for lack of support and assistance from caring adults. We are lucky to have people like Constance who chose to make her school a little bit safer – but why didn't responsible adults act first as they should have?

6:23AM PDT on Oct 25, 2011

The courage it took for this young woman to stand up to this in a state like MS is inspirational.

5:46AM PDT on Oct 25, 2011

Homophobia comes from home and until everyone can except it in the home it will always be a discrimate act for others that don't believe in the good of our society.
We are a free world and excepting others should not be so hard to do if we are human.

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Lindsay Spangler Lindsay Spangler is a Web Editor and Producer for Care2 Causes. A recent UCLA graduate, she lives in... more
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