Walnut prom goes on as gay activist Constance McMillen decides not to attend

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

WALNUT – Told that her presence was unwelcome, gay activist Constance McMillen bowed out of attending tonight’s Walnut Attendance Center prom.
The event will go forward as originally planned at Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville where the school-sponsored proms usually are held, said North Tippah County Superintendent Junior Wooten.
“I didn’t know about there being any problems,” Wooten said. “I’m not familiar with that at all.”
McMillen had planned to attend the prom with a student at the school who invited her.
McMillen’s gay friends at the school had told her it was against policy to have a same-sex date, so she called the principal to make an appointment to talk with him about the case she’d won last year that prohibits discrimination against same-sex couples.
When the principal told her there was no policy against same-sex couples, her friend kept asking her to go.
“I went to pay for my ticket and they said the principal had to approve it and asked did I have a reference – a teacher or someone,” McMillen said. “I gave them my reference and my money.”
Unhappy parents
Later, McMillen said, she heard parents had “gone crazy” about the idea that she would attend the prom, telling their kids they couldn’t go, asking for their money back and planning another prom.
“People posted signs about (my friend) around the town,” McMillen said. “They said if I would agree not to go they would give me my money back. I heard they said they didn’t have a problem with same-sex dates but didn’t want me there.”
Following up on the rumor about what might be hate signs about a student, Walnut Mayor Vickie Skinner said on Friday that she had driven around town herself looking for signs and had not seen any.
She also asked the police chief to watch out for anything of that sort, but had not been able to confirm the existence of any signs.
“If they were here we would have been taking them down,” Skinner said.
McMillen said she ultimately decided that the anger being generated around her plan to attend the event was creating an unsafe environment for her friends.
“I’m just not going to go because me going was going to make it unsafer at that school, making it a hostile environment,” she said. “To me it was just a night out. I wasn’t trying to cause anybody to feel unsafe.”