MS civil rights attorneys: Gay rights vs. Bible belt traditions; judge hears suit

Legal News for Mississippi Civil Rights Attorneys. The ACLU and gay rights groups have raised funds for a gay-friendly dance in response to a school’s prom cancellation.

Civil rights attorney alerts- American Civil Liberties Union filed lawsuit, on behalf of a lesbian whose first amendment rights were violated by a Mississippi school’s policies.

Jackson, MS—The Mississippi school district that was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in connection with a high school’s decision to cancel the senior prom rather than allow same-sex couples to attend, reportedly contended the cancellation of the dance had been under consideration prior to the controversy. Itawamba County School District officials testified before a federal judge on Monday, March 22, 2010, according to information provided by ABC News and previous coverage by Justice News Flash.

Reports stated the school’s superintendent Teresa McNeece and school district Chairman Eddie Hood told U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson that “liability problems, including possible use of alcohol and drugs at a school-sponsored event” prompted them to discuss not sponsoring the dance. They allegedly talked about calling off the school function before 18-year-old Constance McMillen contacted the ACLU as a means of contesting the Itawamba Agricultural High School’s policy on prohibiting gay couples from attending the prom. According to the ACLU’s suit, McMillen, a lesbian student in attendance at the Itawamba county school, was told that she would not be permitted to attend the prom with her girlfriend or wear a tuxedo.

The school stated that disruptions caused by McMillen’s challenge to policies regarding same-sex dates also prompted them to cancel the dance, initially scheduled for April 2, 2010, subsequently stating, “We were being hounded every day. Our students were being hounded… We were having a tough time of any bell-to-bell instruction.” School district officials did not provide any particular examples of in-school disruptions prompted by the ordeal on cross-examination.

According to the ACLU’s attorney, McMillen’s First Amendment rights were violated by the school district. The lawyer also noted that classroom disruptions were prompted by the cancellation of the prom, not McMillen’s sexual orientation, request to bring her girlfriend, or wear a tuxedo.

While the case is ongoing and the suit initially sought out the reversal of the school district’s decision, reports noted that the ACLU and gay rights groups have raised funds for a LGBT-inclusive prom, to be held on May 8, 2010.

Legal News Reporter: Sandra Quinlan- Legal News for Mississippi Civil Rights Lawyers.

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