Going to the trouble of hosting a fake prom

GOING TO THE TROUBLE OF HOSTING A FAKE PROM…. There’s been an ongoing controversy in Fulton, Mississippi, about a lesbian high school student, Constance McMillen, who wanted to go to her prom with her girlfriend. The school district learned of her intentions, and quickly intervened, banning same-sex prom dates.

McMillen and the ACLU threatened to sue, prompting the district to cancel the prom altogether. Eventually, a compromise of sorts was reached — there would be a privately-sponsored prom, organized by parents, with school officials as chaperones. McMillen and her girlfriend could attend.

At least, that’s what was supposed to happen.

Senior prom fell far short of the rite of passage Constance McMillen was hoping for when she began a legal battle to challenge a ban on same-sex dates.

The 18-year-old lesbian student said Tuesday she was one of only seven students to show up at a private event chaperoned by school officials last Friday night. She said the rest of her peers went to another private event where she wasn’t invited.

“It was not the prom I imagined,” she said Tuesday. “It really hurts my feelings. These are still people who I’ve gone through school with, even teachers who loved me before this all started. I’ve never been a bad student and I don’t feel like I deserve to be put through this.”

The prom, in other words, was a sham. The rest of the student body was encouraged to attend the real prom at a local country club, with McMillen excluded.

I realize it’s a small, Southern town, but I’m hard pressed to imagine why locals would go to so much trouble. Sure, they hate gays. And sure, their bigotry has clearly interfered with their character and judgment. But why not just have a prom and ignore the students locals don’t like? Why be this callous towards one of their neighbors?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.