JACKSON, Miss. (CBS/AP) A judge ruled Tuesday that the Itawamba County School District violated Constance McMillen's civil rights when they prohibited her from bringing her lesbian partner and wearing a tux to the senior prom by canceling the prom altogether. But the judge stopped short of requiring the school to put on the April 2 dance.
It's a victory for McMillen, albeit a small one, who in Dec. 2009 asked that the school board allow her to bring a same-sex date to her senior prom despite the previous ban on same-sex prom dates. After a school memo was sent out Feb. 5 outlining restrictions on prom dates, McMillen's second request was denied, prompting the ACLU to send a letter to the district demanding that they allow McMillen to attend with her partner.
The school board responded by canceling the prom.
U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson recognized that McMillen has been openly gay since she was in the eighth grade and that she intended to communicate a message by wearing a tuxedo and escorting a same-sex date.
"The court finds this expression and communication falls squarely within the purview of the First Amendment," Davidson said.
But Davidson did not grant the ACLU's request to force the school district to reinstate the April 2 dance because a private prom parents are planning will serve the same purpose as a school-sponsored one.
He wrote that "requiring defendants to step back into a sponsorship role at this late date would only confuse and confound the community on the issue."
McMillen hasn't decided whether she will attend the privately sponsored prom because of the reaction from her classmates.
"My nerves are shot," she said. "I'm going to school [Wednesday] and will get a feel of how everybody feels about me. That will help me make my decision."
MORE ON CRIMESIDER