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11/11/2009

The sanctity of rented tuxes and booze-filled afterparties

by Jeremy Hooper

Have you been following the case of the Alabama high school that cancelled their prom rather than allow an out lesbian to attend? Well if not, here's the gist, per the ACLU:

Cynthia Stewart, a junior at Tharptown High School in northern Alabama, wanted to bring her girlfriend to prom. Rather than let her, the school announced that it would cancel prom for everyone.

Cynthia Stewart, a 17-year-old junior at Tharptown High School in northern Alabama, is a member of her school’s prom planning committee, had personally raised over $200 for the prom, and created the theme her classmates had chosen for the dance. She is also an out lesbian.

When Cynthia approached her principal to ask if she could bring her girlfriend with her to the prom, he said no. He also made Cynthia remove a sticker she was wearing that said, “I am a lesbian,” telling her, “You don't have that much freedom of speech at school.” Cynthia’s aunt and guardian, Kathy Baker, then appealed the principal’s decision to the school board. But the board let the decision to bar Cynthia from bringing her girlfriend to the prom stand.

Russellville, Alabama School Prom Discrimination [ACLU]

The ACLU is of course on the case, reminding the school district that this is unlawful discrimination (pdf of demand letter here). But honestly, the fact that we live in a country where one lesbian can be one of the most popular talk show hosts, dancing in the nation's living rooms on a daily basis, yet where another lesbian can't simply dance with her desired date in a crepe paper-decorated banquet hall?!? Well that, dear readers, is simply absurd!

Oh, and as for the bumper sticker: Well here's just hoping the principal doesn't also teach American government. Because if accurately assessing your sexual orientation is unprotected speech in his eyes, we'd be a wee bit concerned about the other limitations he's telling the kids to place upon "we the people" promises (and proms).

**UPDATE: As expected: Lesbian Couple Allowed at Prom [Times Daily]

**UPDATE 2: Actually, we hear that the matter is not AT ALL closed. This from a source at the ACLU:

While the principal told a local reporter that he is letting Cynthia bring her girlfriend to prom and that report has gotten out there quite a bit, the school has yet to respond to the ACLU, and they also have yet to address the free speech issue raised by the principal forcing Cynthia to remove her "I'm a lesbian" sticker. We're hoping what he told the reporter is true and we certainly look forward to talking with the school, but we don't at all consider the matter closed yet.

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Your thoughts

Reading the following article, it looks like they will now be letting her attend prom with her girlfriend after an "interview" process.

http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20091111/ARTICLES/911115033/1011/NEWS?Title=Lesbian-couple-allowed-at-prom

What's heartbreaking is that she would need to be put through this in the first place.

Posted by: Andrew H | Nov 11, 2009 11:41:36 AM

I was stationed at Craig AFB near Selma, AL when MLK lead the civil rights marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. As summer approached and the Civil Rights Act was passed which prohibited discrimination in public accommodations, townspeople began fretting about their three public swimming pools which were about to open for the summer.

Would some uppity Negros arrive and insist they be let in? Blacks in the pool to some seemed like having to let a black person in the tub with you when you were taking a bath.

You guessed it. They never reopened the pools.

All the capital investment, the summer jobs they would provide, the fun their children would have didn't matter. They had to keep blacks out of the same pool water as them.

Ruin everyone's prom rather than let a lesbian bring her female date? Some things never change, do they?

Posted by: Bill Ware | Nov 11, 2009 1:09:58 PM

And of course, even though she'd actively worked to make the prom happen for everyone and simply wanted to go to the prom with the person she really wanted to dance with, *she* was to blame for the fact that the prom was almost destroyed for everyone else. She's anti-prom, and the principal was defending traditional proms.

I'm glad the school was able to get dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing, but poor Cynthia Stewart and her girlfriend have learned way more than they needed to from this school.

Posted by: GreenEyedLilo | Nov 11, 2009 2:16:04 PM

I don't usually go for lawyers, but I love the ACLU.

Posted by: Em | Nov 11, 2009 5:02:25 PM

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