Constance McMillen

A Mississippi school has chosen to cancel its prom rather than allow a female student to attend with her girlfriend.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had given Itawamba County School District officials until yesterday to reverse their decision to forbid Constance McMillen from attending the prom with her girlfriend and from wearing a tuxedo to the event, or face legal action.

“Prom is one of those high school moments everyone should get to experience and enjoy. I didn’t go to prom last year, so this is my only chance to go,” said McMillen, an 18-year-old senior at the school in Fulton, a small town of about 3,900 in the north-eastern corner of Mississippi. “We just want to be able to be ourselves at our own prom.”

In response to the ACLU’s demand, the school cancelled the dance on Wednesday. “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,” said officials in a letter to students.

“It is our hope that private citizens will organise an event for the juniors and seniors. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this causes anyone,” they added.

Speaking to The Clarion-Ledger, a shocked McMillen responded: “Oh, my God. That’s really messed up because the message they are sending is that if they have to let gay people go to prom that they are not going to have one.”

She added: “A bunch of kids at school are really going to hate me for this.”

The furore is similar to another incident in November last year in which a northern Alabama school also barred a lesbian student from attending its prom with her girlfriend and threatened to cancel the event. Following intervention by the ACLU, that school later reversed its position and allowed the couple to take part.

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