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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

March 26, 2010

LOCAL HERO: 18 YEAR-OLD STRIKES BLOW FOR GENDER RIGHTS

CHANGE - Constance McMillen has become a lot of things to an awful lot of people these past few weeks. Less than a month ago, she was an 18-year-old high school student at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi. Today, she's become a de facto face of the movement for LGBT student rights, blazing a trail from the courtrooms of Mississippi to the couches of America's most popular talk shows.

McMillen, openly lesbian, sued her school earlier this month after they refused to allow her to attend the prom with her girlfriend. In a town of 4,000 people, where anti-gay fervor runs a little high, it was a bold move to bring the movement for LGBT equality to the most local of levels in this country. Her school, as the world would soon find out, canceled the prom altogether rather than be forced to allow McMillen and her girlfriend to show up and drink punch together.

This week, McMillen won her court case, with a federal judge in Mississippi saying that by canceling the prom, the Itawamba Agricultural High School violated McMillen's rights. It was a victory for McMillen in name only -- the judge refused to order the school to reinstate the prom, and Itawamba Agricultural High School has buckled down in their decision to cancel the prom. . .

McMillen responded to her court victory with what has become her standard humility.

"It hurts me that they would rather punish everybody than just do the right thing," said McMillen. . .

McMillen has become a national hero. Wanda Sykes asked McMillen to present an equality award in her name. Ellen DeGeneres brought McMillen on her show to award her $30,000 scholarship and announce that she could have an internship at tonic.com this summer. And other schools around the country have expressed their support for McMillen by inviting her to their prom.

And yet, despite the international celebrity, McMillen says that at the end of the day, she'd really just like to see her equal rights validated in her own community. . .


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