By now, I suspect anyone reading this has heard about the absurd decision of the Itawamba County school board to cancel the high school prom simply because a lesbian student (Constance McMillen) wanted to attend with her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo. The story has been picked up by the national media and is making the rounds on a number of blogs. Not surprisingly, news like this reinforces stereotypes about our state, some of which are very difficult to challenge in the first place.
In all the reporting I have seen so far, the bit that really caught my attention was a story by the Associated Press in which Southside Baptist Church Pastor Bobby Crenshaw was quoted. Pastor Crenshaw was complaining about how many of the sources covering this story are depicting the South as "backwards." In an apparent attempt to refute this impression, he responded, "but a lot more people here have biblically based values." (Sigh)
There is some good news coming out of this mess, but again, it does nothing to change the image of our state. First, the ACLU is working with Ms. McMillen to protect her rights. Second, two members of the American Humanist Association have donated $20,000 to help support a replacement prom. Third, it looks like this situation has sparked such outrage at a national level that all sorts of offers of help have been pouring in and political efforts are underway to enact greater protections of GLBT students.
If you are frustrated by this situation and want to do something to help, visit Mississippi Safe Schools.
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