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    Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

    by | Mar 12, 2010

    With spring upon us, many high school teens across our land turn their thoughts to that annual rite of passage, the senior prom. If you are gay and attend Agriculture High-school in Itawamba County, Mississippi, however, you won’t be welcome. This follows a recent decision by the local school board that had the school district cancel the planned senior prom rather than allow an 18-year-old lesbian student attend wearing a tuxedo and accompanied by her girlfriend.

    The story of Constance McMillen has been reported in a number of media outlets including CBS news and tells of the flap caused by McMillen’s intention of attending her senior prom. McMillen simply desired to escort her girlfriend to the prom and dress up for the occasion, just as other teens have done to celebrate the tradition.

    According to CBS news, a Feb. 5 memo to students laid out the criteria for bringing a date to the prom, and one requirement was that the person must be of the opposite sex. Enter the American Civil Liberties Union.

    The ACLU told board members the restriction violated the students’ rights and not allowing McMillen to wear a tux violated her expression rights. Rather than fight the challenge put forth, the school board had the district cancel the senior prom citing “distractions to the educational process caused by recent events.”

    Just what part of the educational process are they concerned about? Is it the notion that people wear tuxedos to formal events? Perhaps it is the part of the educational process that confuses civil rights with the idea that these are exercised only when convenient or only for people who think and act like “us.”

    Clearly the student body is getting quite an education and one that couldn’t be more distracting from a call for tolerance and understanding in a community that suffered greatly from such omissions mere decades ago during the racially charged civil rights era when it was sheets and hoods, not tuxedos that were cause for concern.

    The school board’s decision means that the values and moral judgment of a few will impact the entire senior class, robbing them of their only chance for what would ordinarily be a celebratory and joyful event.

    McMillen has stood tall during the entire ordeal and gained inspiration from the knowledge that her actions will help people “later on.” She said upon return to class this week, she was singled out by classmates for “ruining the senior year” for many.

    No Ms. McMillen, your classmates can thank the school board for that.

    ###
    Michael J. Solender

    Michael J. Solender

    Michael J. Solender is a recent corporate refugee whose opinion and satire has been featured in The Richmond Times Dispatch, The Winston-Salem Journal, and Richmond Style Weekly. He writes a weekly Neighborhoods column for The Charlotte Observer and is the City Life Editor for Charlotte ViewPoint. His micro-fiction has been featured online at Bull Men’s Fiction, Calliope Nerve, Danse Macabre, Dogzplot, Gloom Cupboard, Full of Crow, Pangur Ban Party and others.

    You can find more of his work at his website and also at his blog.

     

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    • http://hannah.smith-family.com Monica Smith

      One of my pet peeves is the confusion that has been caused by the mis-naming of the Bill of Rights which is really an enumeration of specific behaviors the agents of government must not and shall not engage in. True. If these prohibitions are honored, then individual human rights will be respected and if the agents of government carry out their obligations as directed, then all persons will be equally served.
      Associating with whomever one wants is a human right. Forming partnerships is a human right. Recording partnerships in the public records is, except for the census, optional. But when some people’s partnerships are recorded, then similar acts by all other persons are to be equally recorded. Having that happen is not exercising a civil right.
      Civil rights are those which define the obligations of U.S. citizens to vote, serve on juries, propose legislation, hold public office, etc. That’s how the people rule.
      Conservatives are understandably reluctant to recognize either the obligations of the agents (Justice Kennedy’s designation) or of the citizens at large who, being free, have the option of carrying them out, or not, while the agents, being paid, are under a mandate. That’s not their idea of how the affairs of state should be run. It doesn’t comport with their position that the majority of humanity is vile and government is charged with keeping them in line.
      Considering that until the passage of the Federal Tort Claims Act in 1947 and the Freedom of Information Act in 1966 it wasn’t possible for most citizens to know what public officials were doing in their name and hold them accountable for malfeasance in office, it’s understandable that the attachment to the old way of doing things persists. Also understandable is the persistent effort to turn back the clock by privatizing public functions and substituting the secrecy of the corporate boardroom for the smoke-filled political haunts of old. Understandable but bound to fail.
      Unfortunately, it’s turned out that failure is actually a guarantor of longevity, especially for politicians. Promising things that can’t be accomplished is the doorway to a pleading that they be permitted to “try and try again.” And generous Americans let them get away with it.

    • Vincent Allen

      This entire affair delves deeply into the ridiculous and clearly demonstrates how prejudice and the imposition of social standards upon others is a bonafide moral outrage. I sincerely hope that Constance does not internalize the blame for the actions that were taken by the school board. All she wanted to do was participate in the event according to her own personal style and belief system, which is supposed to be guaranteed by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights but has been subverted by religious fanatics. This goes to the core of the types of issues that divide our great country. The lessons of tolerance and acceptance must be thrust to the forefront now or more of our freedoms will be jeopardized in the name of some other belief that wishes to impose itself upon us. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are indeed unalienable rights and should not be infringed. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

    • Gita

      Ahhh, high schools. I think that gay rights are the true final frontier of civil rights and gay rights for minors are even more so. High schools are war zones in the First Amendment battle. School prayer, freedom to wear religious headwear, freedom of the press — these get tested regularly in high schools, and on some college campuses, too, because these institutions are governed by boards.
      Boards want campus newspapers and high school yearbooks to be happy, peppy publications.
      In college, it is the board of trustees that wants the say-so over campus behavior; in high school it is the board of education. In such cases, the authority figures win for several reasons. One, they can fire principals and teachers who do not obey their rules; two, they cater to the parents (who are scared by gay girls and boys in their midst) because the parents ELECT the school board members. Three, boards of education control the dollars that flow to the various schools in their districts. No surprise that the prom was cancelled. Wish the kids had the guts to hold an off-campus prom and invite the gays to attend.

      • Monica Smith

        I don’t know what the latest is, but last I heard an entrepreneur in New Orleans was offering to put on a prom and bring the students to the city in rented buses. If that doesn’t work out, there are people on the political blog KOS who are collecting money to hire another venue close by and organize a band.

        That said, the core issue is really equality. The groupists are flailing about for some group, any group, to single out and dump on with impunity. That’s because having a common target is a really cheap way of organizing a group, and easy. It costs the participants in the group nothing. And groupists, as well as groupies, are basically lazy.

    • http://www.freshfreeemail.blogspot.com Kim

      I find this whole thing eerily similar to the movie, now musical, sensation Footloose.

      From the movie: Ren: Ecclesiastes assures us… that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh… and a time to weep. A time to mourn… and there is a time to dance. And there was a time for this law, but not anymore. See, this is our time to dance. It is our way of celebrating life. It’s the way it was in the beginning. It’s the way it’s always been. It’s the way it should be now.

      The only thing keeping these teenagers from dancing is fear. The town elders are fearful. I say they cross the tracks and have their “non”prom and welcome everyone…

    • Jonna Pattillo

      Scarily enough, the 2 proms I attended, both my dates were gay guys. Didn’t know it at the time, but still they would have been happier if they had been free to just be themselves. Been 30 yrs ago. I don’t see where her choice of date should threaten anyone. If the power that be are opposed to same sex relationships, they don’t need to have one. Otherwise leave it alone.

    • BubbaPicasso

      Not allowing 18-year-olds to see the world beyond the walls they’re about to escape is precisely why we’re in this boat, floating on a sea of ignorance and bigotry. I’d like to see the Human Rights Campaign fund a prom there, open to all seniors. I don’t care if two or 2,000 attend. It would be money well and better spent than paying people to give lip service to a bunch of legislators who come from the same tribe as the school board members.

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