A judge has ruled that while a Mississippi school infringed the rights of a lesbian student he would not force it to hold the prom which it cancelled.
Constance McMillen (18), backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sued the Itawamba County School after it cancelled the dance, rather than allow her to wear a tuxedo and attend the event with her girlfriend.
In his preliminary ruling on the case, US District Court Judge Glen Davidson denied an urgent request to reinstate the prom saying that it would “only confuse and confound the community on the issue”. He also noted that an alternative private prom was being organised which would allow McMillen to attend.
Davidson did say, however, that McMillen’s rights had been violated: “The Court finds this expression and communication of her viewpoint is the type of speech that falls squarely within the purview of the First Amendment.”
He also added that he is of the opinion that the motive behind the school board’s cancellation of the prom was McMillen’s requests and the ACLU’s demand letter sent on her behalf. The school had denied that it had cancelled the prom because it didn’t want to allow her to attend, but because of the disruption that the issue had caused on campus.
“It feels really good that the court realised that the school was violating my rights and discriminating against me by cancelling the prom. All I ever wanted was for my school to treat me and my girlfriend like any other couple that wants to go to prom,” said McMillen.
“Now we can all get back to things like picking out our prom night outfits and thinking about corsages.”
Although the judge denied the request to re-instate the prom, the matter is still expected to go to trial. McMillen is suing to declare the school board’s actions unconstitutional and for a token sum of $1 as well as court costs.