Illinois Passes Antibullying Bill

April 26, 2010

from The Advocate

With a vote of 108-0, the Illinois house of representatives Friday passed a bill requiring schools to adopt policies prohibiting bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and several other characteristics, according to the LBGT rights group Equality Illinois.

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ACLU Complaint Takes On “Decoy” Prom For Mississippi Lesbian Student New Information Revealed In Constance McMillen Case

April 21, 2010

The American Civil Liberties Union filed legal papers today in federal court on behalf of lesbian high school student Constance McMillen regarding a cruel plan to put on a “decoy” prom for her while the rest of her classmates were at a private prom 30 miles away.  The amended complaint alleges that the district’s violation of the free speech rights of McMillen, an 18-year-old high school senior who sued her school for canceling the prom rather than let her attend with her girlfriend, have repeatedly caused McMillen to be humiliated and harassed.

“I really hoped that prom night would make all that I’ve been through worth it, then April 2 came and those hopes went out the window,” said McMillen. “All I ever wanted was to go to my school prom with my classmates and my date, like anyone else, and instead I was the target of a mean, nasty joke.”

On March 23, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi issued a preliminary ruling in McMillen’s case that school officials violated McMillen’s First Amendment rights when it canceled the high school prom rather than let McMillen attend with her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo. The court stopped short of ordering Itawamba Agricultural High School (IAHS) to put the school prom back on the calendar relying on assurances that an alternative “private” prom being planned by parents would be open to all students, including McMillen.

However, according to legal papers, at a meeting with school officials, parents then decided to cancel that private prom without notifying McMillen because they did not want to allow McMillen to attend, instead organizing a “decoy” prom for McMillen and her date and still another prom for the rest of the class. McMillen and her date then attended the event the school had told her was “the prom for juniors and seniors” on April 2, where they found only seven other students attending. Principal Trae Wiygul and several school staff members were supervising that event while most of McMillen’s classmates were at the other prom in Evergreen, Mississippi.

“Constance is a very brave young woman, and she has suffered tremendously because of the animosity and hate she’s felt coming from her classmates and her community which the school’s actions have encouraged,” said Kristy Bennett, Legal Director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “Even after a federal court found that the school violated her constitutional rights, an 18-year-old girl has been made the scapegoat and an outsider in the town where she’s lived all her life. For the school to subject Constance to this type of hostility is simply inexcusable.”

Today’s amended complaint contains new details about events that have taken place since the ACLU first filed McMillen’s case on March 11, including about the way her classmates have treated her. Most of McMillen’s classmates no longer speak to her, and some have posted Facebook messages saying they wish she were dead and sent her such text messages as, “I don’t know why you come to this school because no one likes your gay ass anyways.”  In response to the court’s March 23 order, the complaint also adds a request for compensatory damages for an amount to be determined later at trial.

“After the court ruled that IAHS acted illegally when it canceled the prom, we hoped that Constance would be able to attend the private prom without further incident,” said Christine P. Sun, Senior Counsel with the ACLU national LGBT Project, who represents McMillen along with the ACLU of Mississippi. “But instead there was a malicious plan to further ostracize and humiliate her.  It is hard to conceive of adults behaving in such a cruel way.”

McMillen is represented by Bennett and Sun, as well as by Norman C. Simon, Joshua Glick, and Jason Moff of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, and Alysson Mills of New Orleans.

The case name is Constance McMillen v. Itawamba County School District, et al. Additional information is available at http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/fulton-ms-prom-discrimination. There is also a Facebook group for people who want to support McMillen, “Let Constance Bring Her Girlfriend to the Prom,” at www.facebook.com/pages/Let-Constance-Take-Her-Girlfriend-to-Prom/357686784817.


The National Center for Lesbian Rights Stands Up for LGBT Youth With the National Day for Silence

April 16, 2010

Today hundreds of thousands of students nationwide will stay silent to bring attention to anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) name-calling, bullying, and harassment in their schools as part of the Day of Silence.

“Today my kids are participating in Day of Silence and our 13-year-old son Julian helped to organize events at his school,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “Seeing my kids and knowing of the thousands of others around the country standing up for inclusion, safety and dignity inspires me to redouble our commitment to never stop working until every kid feels embraced and secure.”

Research shows that anti-LGBT harassment and violence affects all students. According to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey nearly nine out of 10 LGBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and more than 30 percent report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety.  The Day of Silence is designed to illustrate the silencing effect bullying and harassment has on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT, to let students who experience such bullying know that they are not alone, and to ask schools to take action to address this problem.

The annual event has become the largest single student-led action focused on creating safer schools for all and since it first started in 1996, it has had a positive impact on the lives of innumerable LGBT youth.

The Day of Silence is one element of a coordinated national movement that NCLR is a part of, made up of students, advocates, parents, teachers, administrators, and policy makers working everyday to encourage schools to implement proven solutions to address anti-LGBT harassment and violence. NCLR joins partner organizations to support Gay-Straight Alliances in schools, urge the adoption of anti-harassment and nondiscrimination policies that protect LGBT youth and allies, and provide trainings to school staff to identify and address anti-LGBT name calling and harassment, in addition to creating factually accurate and inclusive curricula to help students understand and respect differences.

“Today we stand with the students who speak volumes with their silence, standing up for their fellow students’ basic right to an education free from hate and harassment,” said NCLR Youth Project Director Jody Marksamer. “Today students across the country are silent.  Tomorrow and throughout the rest of the year we will continue to work hand-in-hand to bring us closer to living in a world where all LGBT young people can grow, thrive, and live authentic lives free of violence and discrimination.”

NCLR was the first LGBT legal organization to introduce a Youth Project. Since 1993, NCLR’s Youth Project has worked to ensure that all LGBTQ young people are safe and can live openly with the support they need to reach their full potential. As leading advocates, NCLR urges national leaders to support policies and legislation that improve the quality and accessibility of education in our nation’s schools and create safe schools. NCLR supports the passage of  the Student Non-Discrimination Act(H.R. 4530), which would establish a nationwide comprehensive prohibition of discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, NCLR supports the reauthorization of  the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, with key additions focused on supporting healthy school climates and positive approaches to discipline.


Finding a Gay-Friendly Campus

April 16, 2010

by John Schwartz | New York Times

The scene was similar to one that plays out thousands of times a year in gyms and auditoriums around the country: a college fair. The folding tables, the school banners, the admissions officers with a student representative or two, and the brochures and tchotchkes laid out.

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Mississippi Lesbian Teen Gets Second Chance at Soiree

April 9, 2010

by Sheila Byrd | Associated Press

A lesbian high school student is getting a second chance to don a tuxedo and dance after she sued her Mississippi school over a ban on same-sex prom dates.

Constance McMillen plans to attend an anniversary soiree held by the the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco on May 1.

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read Kate’s Blog, We’ll Show You the Real Prom


We’ll Show You the Real Prom

April 7, 2010

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 girlfriend—the school cancelled the prom, rather than allow a lesbian couple to attend.

It’s as absurd and outrageous a homophobic story as we’ve heard in a while. But that was not the end of this saga. When an “alternative” prom organized by her schoolmates’ parents was held this past weekend, Constance and her girlfriend showed up, only to discover that they and five other students—some of whom are differently-abled—were the only ones in attendance. And that the “real” prom was actually being held elsewhere, and the event they were attending was simply a ruse to keep all the so-called “outcasts” away from the “real” prom.

Now that is just beyond the pale. The parents who set Constance up to attend a “fake” prom should be deeply ashamed of themselves. With role models like that, it’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 Constance’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 didn’t need legal representation—she’s got that taken care of—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 “the lesbian prom.”

“With everything Constance has been through at her school over the past few weeks, we’re grateful for any chance to remind her that while her school violated her rights, she’s appreciated and respected all over the country for her fight to be treated equally. It’s wonderful that our friends at NCLR are giving Constance a fun, special night,” Christine Sun, Senior Attorney, ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & AIDS Project.

If ever there were a prom for her to attend, our event is it—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. We’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 she’ll never forget. It will make all these other proms and fake-proms fade into distant memory.

Sincerely,



McMillen: I Was Sent to Fake Prom

April 5, 2010

from the Advocate.com

To avoid Constance McMillen bringing a female date to her prom, the teen was sent to a “fake prom” while the rest of her class partied at a secret location at an event organized by parents.

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Right of Passage

March 31, 2010

New York Times editorial

A Mississippi school board was grossly discriminatory and mean-spirited when it told Constance McMillen that she could not attend her high school prom with her girlfriend. A ruling by a federal judge that Ms. McMillen’s constitutional rights had been violated is a welcome sign that gay people are continuing to make progress toward equality. It should also be a warning to school districts nationwide about the cost of discrimination.

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Making a Prom Date Changes His Fate

March 28, 2010

by Mark Davis | Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Derrick Martin had a question he couldn’t answer, so he did what any 18-year-old would. Fingers tapping, he logged on to his computer last December and Googled the following words, which changed his life:

“I’m gay. Can I go to the prom?”

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Gay Teen in Prom Case Feels Ostracized Locally, Celebrated Nationally

March 26, 2010

by Jessica Ravitz | CNN

Walking into school Wednesday morning was not easy for Constance McMillen. The last time she’d been there was March 11, the day after her Fulton, Mississippi, high school canceled prom rather than allow her to wear a tuxedo and attend with her girlfriend.

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