One of my favorite recurring editorial practices here at LD, whether content flow is thick or thin, is to copy and paste the emails of lesbian and LGBT family civil rights leaders I admire and respect. Kate Kendall, Executive Director of National Center for Lesbian Rights, is certainly my most copied-and-pasted. Below is what she just sent to her peoples’ inboxes just now (as always, cross-posted on Kate’s Blog).
It’s good news following a really, incredibly, phehomenally appalling ongoing civil rights debacle in Mississippi. Appalling, essentially, since it entails adults perpetuating cruelty against young people. You’ve likely heard about Constance McMillen — unlikely, unintentional youth LGBT civil rights symbol (a round-up of Google News search results here). When you read below, if the latest chapter in the saga is news to you, you’ll be first sickened. Â Then (I hope) heartened.
(Aside: “private,” segregated proms are nothing new in the south. Â But I suspect that “fake” proms, hosted to trick the half-dozen attendees, might be.)
The best resolution to all this would be some positive change emerging, if not immediately, then with more than “all deliberate speed,” in Constance’s home community. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), appalled and inspired by events in Mississippi — which, while not unique, have certainly been extreme — introduced a bill in late January to protect students from discrimination: the Student Non-Discrimination Act. From Rep. Polis’ press release on the bill:
While Federal civil rights statutes expressly address discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin, they do not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity and, as a result, LGBT students and parents have often had limited legal recourse for this kind of discrimination. By establishing a comprehensive Federal prohibition of discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and empowering victims with meaningful and effective remedies (loss of federal funding and legal cause of action for victims) for discrimination, SNDA represents an enormous step toward safe public schools for all kids, regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation.
Press your representatives to support it. If you want to put some dollars behind your voice, support the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, which works to “train students and allies to make schools safer while fighting for long-term policy change.” Â They’re sponsoring a “Second Chance” prom May 8th. Meanwhile, Constance has got the respect and hospitality of a whole lot of the rest of us, far and wide.
Now to Kate Kendall’s post, whole cloth:
Weâ€™ll Show You the Real Prom
By now you’ve probably heard of Constance McMillen. Constance is an 18-year-old from Mississippi who, when she tried to buy tickets for herself and her girlfriend to attend the prom, was promptly told not only that she was forbidden from attending with her girlfriend, but she could not wear a tuxedo. When Constance went to the ACLU who took her case immediately and sent the school a letter demanding that Constance be allowed to attend the prom with her girlfriendâ€”the school canceled the prom, rather than allow a lesbian couple to attend.
Itâ€™s as absurd and outrageous a homophobic story as weâ€™ve heard in a while. But that was not the end of this saga. When an â€œalternativeâ€ prom organized by her schoolmatesâ€™ parents was held this past weekend, Constance and her girlfriend showed up, only to discover that they and five other studentsâ€”some of whom are differently-abledâ€”were the only ones in attendance. And that the â€œrealâ€ prom was actually being held elsewhere, and the event they were attending was simply a ruse to keep all the so-called â€œoutcastsâ€ away from the â€œrealâ€ prom.
Now that is just beyond the pale. The parents who set Constance up to attend a â€œfakeâ€ prom should be deeply ashamed of themselves. With role models like that, itâ€™s no wonder her classmates have been so cruel. As we all know, it’s Constance who will have the last laugh, however. The ACLU is working hard on their ongoing lawsuit with the school district to ensure justice for Constance. The fight is not over, and I am so glad she is in such capable hands.
When I was Constanceâ€™s age, I would never have had the courage she has to stand up for who I was and to demand basic respect and equality. Constance has sparked a remarkable and sustained outpouring of support. Her story and her truth have inspired everyone committed to justice.
When all of us at NCLR first heard about her story, we wanted to do anything we could for her. She didnâ€™t need legal representationâ€”sheâ€™s got that taken care ofâ€”what she needed was a prom! So I am so pleased to announce that Constance McMillen and her friend= Ceara Sturgis will be at= NCLR’s 33rd Anniversary Celebration, often referred to as â€œthe lesbian prom.â€
â€œWith everything Constance has been through at her school over the past few weeks, weâ€™re grateful for any chance to remind her that while her school violated her rights, sheâ€™s appreciated and respected all over the country for her fight to be treated equally. Itâ€™s wonderful that our friends at NCLR are giving Constance a fun, special night,â€ Christine Sun, Senior Attorney, ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & AIDS Project.
If ever there were a prom for her to attend, our event is itâ€”it is attended by nearly 2,000 people of every stripe and walk of life: young and old; lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and straight; differently-abled; and so much more. Weâ€™re so glad she can make it, and we know it will be a thrill for everyone to have her there. She will be rightly surrounded by the love and support she deserves. Make no mistake: we plan to give her a weekend sheâ€™ll never forget. It will make all these other proms and fake-proms fade into distant memory.