The Great Fulton Fake-Out

Remember Constance McMillen? She’s the lesbian teen in Fulton, Miss., who fought to take her date to the prom and wear a tuxedo. Her case drew national attention after she and the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the Itawamba County School District. The district had banned same-sex prom dates and decreed that only male students could wear tuxedos.

The court upheld Constance’s right to attend the prom, tuxedo and all. But the prom had by then been cancelled—a transparent effort to keep Constance away. In what appeared to be a compromise, school district officials said parents would organize a private event that everyone would be invited to attend.

So students got their end-of-year party, Constance got to wear her tux and the district got to save face by not officially holding the prom. Cue the happy ending, right? As the Associated Press reports, never underestimate small-minded people:

Senior prom fell far short of the rite of passage Constance McMillen was hoping for when she began a legal battle to challenge a ban on same-sex dates.

The 18-year-old lesbian student said Tuesday she was one of only seven students to show up at a private event chaperoned by school officials last Friday night. She said the rest of her peers went to another private event where she wasn't invited.

Two of the seven kids who attended Constance’s event were mentally disabled. Apparently, nobody invited them to the "real" prom either.

A classmate of Constance’s made a spirited, if not terribly bright, defense of the town’s massive fake-out using an "Open Letter." In it, she blamed Constance for “her decision to throw the district under the bus.” (Yes, it takes some gall to want to attend the prom with the date of your choosing.) "Now we're getting flack because poor Connie's ego got a bit of a bruising," the letter says. "She's playing the lesbian card to prove she ALWAYS gets what she wants. This time, we didn't let her."

The reactions have been what you would expect. Most people are shocked. The betrayal by school officials is particularly jaw-dropping. Others have made excuses. Well, this is the South, they say. Well, this is a small town. As Teaching Tolerance has shown though, other southern small towns have handled the same issue with some maturity. They most certainly did not fool the social outcasts into attending their own insulting little prom so that the cool kids could party elsewhere unsullied by those who play "the lesbian card."

Many involved in this well-orchestrated ostracism will defend it until the day they die. In fact, the increased criticism will only confirm their belief that they behaved correctly and are terribly misunderstood. But others among them will in time grasp the depth of their pettiness. After all the headlines have faded—perhaps after some have had gay children of their own—they will realize with a sickening rush just how juvenile and avoidable all this has been. And it will grieve them. It should.

When it mattered most, Fulton, Miss., needed a grown-up to stand up and say, "This is wrong" (or, at the very least, "This is bad PR"). Instead, all the key people sided with what has to be one of the nastiest little conspiracies cooked up by any community anywhere. From now on, the signs that welcome people into town should read "Welcome to Fulton, Miss.—the town outclassed by a teenager."



I agree with the previous

Submitted by Sara on 20 April 2010 - 2:36pm.

I agree with the previous comment. It was a dress code violation. The school made a rule stating that only males can wear a tux. She wanted to break that rule and tried to use her status as a lesbian to accomplish that. Really, there's nothing wrong with that the school did. They made a rule. The student wanted to willfully break it. The court said that she can. So the school canceled the prom so that she wouldn't have an opportunity to violate the rule.

And the private parties are just that: PRIVATE. They can invite or not invite whoever they want based on whatever reasons they want. That's not the jurisdiction or business of the court, school, or anyone else not involoved in the private party. Otherwise, we'd have to uphold the same rules put on the school for the after parties that most high school kids have after the prom.

A bit of perspective,

Submitted by Anonymous on 9 April 2010 - 1:09pm.

A bit of perspective, folks:

1. It was a dress code violation issue. Yes, dress codes, the things that most schools have in order to prevent disruptions to the learning environment. It wasn't a "hey, Constance is lesbian, let's discriminate against her!" issue. Furthermore, it was Constance who pulled out the lesbian card to get her way because she wanted to violate the dress code. How this can be defended as an LGBT issue when the "victim" flaunted LGBT status to attempt to get special treatment on something totally unrelated is beyond me.

2. According to the linked article, it was students, not faculty who organized the "prom" that everyone went to, so I can't see why you're trying to point a finger at school officials.

A boy wearing a tuxedo to the

Submitted by Rachael Poe on 14 August 2010 - 10:17am.

A boy wearing a tuxedo to the prom is not violating the "dress code", but a girl is violating it when she wears one? Give me a break! Was the tuxedo frayed? Did it have crude words or symbols on it? Was it too revealing? Probably not. Why don't you just admit it that others simply didn't want Constance, a girl, to wear traditionally masculine clothing?

"Special treatment"? Since when is it considered special treatment to be able to have the date of your choice and dress the way you want to dress? Constance was only fighting for the same rights as her classmates. If Constance was a boy, then no one would balk at her choice to take a girl date and wear a tuxedo. But because Constance is female, those aren't okay?

"Playing the lesbian card?" Once again you reveal the depth of ignorance. Every time someone fights to have the same rights as everyone else, they're accused of playing the "(insert proper identification) card".

Why don't you just admit that you simply think that Constance should just shut up and realize her "proper place"? Well, people who aren't being given equal treatment aren't going to shut up! So get out of their way and let them make their own choices.

Take it from someone who knew

Submitted by Anna on 3 January 2011 - 2:49am.

Take it from someone who knew Constance: she pulled out the lesbian card. It was purely an issue in dress code, not her sexuality. I'm sick of people acting like they understand the situation better than the people who were there. Know that $30,000 scholarship she got? She spent it on a brand new Lexus. Go figure.

Wow, this school sounds like

Submitted by Jon Hughes on 7 April 2010 - 10:42pm.

Wow, this school sounds like its in dire need of SPLC's Mix It Up program.

Lacking that, perhaps McMillen's ongoing lawsuit will give the administrators some pause next time some snooty kids and parents decide to gang up on someone.

Calling Steven King! Carrie

Submitted by George Stark on 7 April 2010 - 6:15pm.

Calling Steven King! Carrie is no longer with us, but her school is back from the grave, in all its resplendent, carefully orchestrated cruelty.