Injunction on Itawamba prom will be heard in federal court

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

ABERDEEN – A U.S. District Court judge will consider whether Itawamba Agricultural High School must hold its prom.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday asked Senior Judge Glen Davidson to prevent the Itawamba School District from voiding its prom after senior Constance McMillen announced she planned to bring a same-sex date and wear a tuxedo. He’ll hear the legal issues at 10 a.m. Monday in Aberdeen.
Meanwhile, efforts to hold a prom for students remain active.
Parents will host a banquet for Itawamba AHS juniors and seniors to replace the April 2 dance.
The location of the parents-sponsored banquet on the same date has been kept secret because of a desire to protect the students in the midst of a controversy that has gained national attention.
Whether McMillen and her date are invited to the banquet wasn’t clear late Tuesday.
The school district’s decision not to hold a prom was announced one week and one day after the ACLU of Mississippi sent a letter on behalf of McMillen demanding that the district change its prohibition on same-sex prom dates.
The ACLU’s injunction wants the district to allow McMillen to bring a “same-sex date” to the dance and wear a tuxedo.
“Our position is that the prom was canceled to keep Constance from making her First Amendment expression about being able to attend with a same-sex date,” said Kristy Bennett, legal director of the ACLU-MS. “We’re looking at it as censorship.”
The issue has drawn national attention, and a Facebook page created Thursday by the ACLU to spotlight McMillen’s fight has drawn more than 300,000 fans. Outside individuals also have taken an interest in supporting a prom.
The American Humanist Association made a $20,000 grant available to fund a prom for students. AHA Communications and Policy Assistant Michael McCamman said the organization talked with the ACLU, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Council, the ACLU of Mississippi and the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition about planning the event.
New Orleans entrepreneur Sean Cummings also offered to throw a prom for all of the school’s juniors and seniors, including McMillen, and their dates and pay for their travel to the city.
Cummings said Tuesday that the school or students haven’t accepted the offer.
“I’m sure this will work out and the school will have a prom,” Cummings said. “We just wanted them to know they’ll have a backup.”

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.