U.S. District Court Judge Glen Davidson recently ruled that the Itawamba County School Board violated lesbian student Constance McMillen’s First Amendment rights by canceling the junior-senior prom.
While prom is normally just a social celebration for the end of the year, the prom was anything but that for Constance McMillen. As Judge Davidson wrote, Constance planned to attend the prom “with the intent of communicating to the school community her social and political views that women should not be constrained to wear clothing that has traditionally been deemed ‘female’ attire.”
Constance, who has been openly lesbian since 8th grade, also “intended to . . . express her identity through attending prom with a same-sex date.” Aided and abetted by the minions of the ACLU, she decided to turn an end-of-year celebration for all students into a political forum of her own. The board canceled the prom rather than allowing this celebration to be turned into a political project for the ACLU and the homosexual agenda.
Despite the ACLU’s contention that Ms. McMillen was being treated unfairly, in point of fact she was being treated with absolute equality. She had exactly the same right to bring an opposite-sex date to the dance that every other student had. The same rule applied to her and to everyone else. You can’t get any more equal than that. The ACLU and homosexual activists are not after equal rights, since Constance already had that. No, they’re after special rights, rights based exclusively on non-normative sexual expression.
Constance, armed with threats from the ACLU, was arm-twisting the school board into altering the prom forum into what she wanted it to be—a political referendum on so-called “gay rights.”
If school districts regularly succumbed to such threats, maintaining law, order, and proper environments for students would be impossible for educators. To keep the inmates from running the asylum, the school board had little choice but to cancel the event altogether. Ms. McMillen succeeded only in ruining the event for everyone.
Despite the ACLU’s constant bleating about what a terrible thing it is for people to impose their values on others, the organization had no hesitation about cramming the values of one student down the throats of an entire school district, and using the power of the federal government to do it.
Judge Davidson said the school violated Ms. McMillen’s right to free speech. This is preposterous. Ms. McMillen has been talking non-stop to anybody who will listen, and the school has made no effort of any kind to stop her from doing so. She’s been on “The Early Show,” “The Wanda Sykes Show,” “The Ellen Degeneres Show,” has done countless media interviews and has 400,000 fans at the Facebook page set up for her by the ACLU. DeGeneres even presented her with a $30,000 college scholarship. We should all be lucky enough to have our rights violated so egregiously.
The United States Supreme Court has made it clear that school officials are entitled to control what students do and don’t wear if their attire would substantially interfere with the rights of others. In this instance, the “others” are Constance’s classmates, who merely wanted a memorable and disruption-free evening with fellow students.
Moreover, Judge Davidson’s opinion completely ignores the Supreme Court’s most recent pronouncement regarding the authority of school officials when it comes to the conduct of their students, even in school-sanctioned settings outside of the classroom. In 2007, in Morse v. Frederick, the Supreme Court rejected the First Amendment claims of students holding a sign reading “Bong Hits for Jesus” during a run-by of the Olympic torch.
In that case, the high court made it clear that “the constitutional rights of students in public school are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings.” In fact, the Supreme Court has been firm that schools have the authority to restrict student speech and expressions if it is disruptive, lewd, or promotes drug use.
The bad guys here? The ACLU and a hyperactive federal judge. The losers? Itawamba’s graduating seniors. The lost? Constance McMillen, because she is so tragically confused about her sexuality. The winners? Nobody.
The Moral Liberal contributing editor, Bryan Fischer, is Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association.