• Culture

10 LGBTQ+ Prom Controversies from Around the US

The fact that any of these became national "controversies" is absolutely ridiculous, and it's outright discrimination. From the heart-breaking, to the inspiring, these are ten LGBTQ+ prom controversies that made national headlines. These were people trying to live their lives, and it made national headlines. These LGBTQ+ prom controversies tell the tales of students all around the United States who stood up against their high school administrators to demand equal rights at the American high school tradition known as Prom. Though not all were successful in their fight, each brought progress and positive awareness to the LGBTQ+ community they were representing, while facing some kind of hardship.

Certainly a topic discussed each spring as high school students purchase expensive prom dresses, rent tuxedos and get all prettied up for their proms, the argument between LGBTQ+ students seeking to bring their same-sex partner to prom and the high school officials who seek to denied that access has been going on for decades. One of the first cases happened well before current high school seniors and juniors were even born.

In 1980, a legal precedent was set in Rhode Island when Fricke v. Lynch ruled that gay student Aaron Fricke was allowed to bring his boyfriend to prom against the desires of Cumberland High School Principal Richard Lynch. Attend they did but that ruling didn't stop many other schools from trying the same thing decades later.

Perhaps the most-publicized incident came in 2010 when the Itawamba County Agricultural High School in Mississippi canceled prom completely after losing a bid to deny lesbian student Constance McMillen from wearing a tux to the dance. It got worse when parents scheduled two other proms, one for only the "normal" kids and a second for McMillen and those unwanted. McMillen may not have attended the big prom but won in the end when she settled out of court with the school district and gained the attention of the world with her fight.

Each of these students served as positive representatives of the LGBTQ+ community when they stood up for what they believed in, even when their position wasn't shared by educators and other parents. And for all the bad press that came from these incidents, there have been just as many positive outcomes with legal precedents, non-profit organizations and LGBTQ+ awareness all resulting from the efforts of these brave students. That sure beats ugly prom dresses and cheesy prom themes any day.

  • Photo: flickr / CC0

    In April 2012, McClintock High School in Tempe, AZ, made news after disqualifying a student who had campaigned for - and had won, solely from write-in votes - Prom Queen. River Flanary, a 17-year-old straight male, had sought to win the title and even wear a dress to the event to make a statement in support of the LGBTQ+ community at his school, in an effort to stand up "for those who maybe weren't bold enough to stand up before, and maybe putting that courage in their hearts a little."

    Despite winning the majority vote, Flanary was denied the title by school officials. At last report, he still planned to wear his custom-made dress to the prom.

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  • Video: YouTube
    Canadian 17-year-old student Marc Hall filed suit against the Durham Catholic School Board in 2002 after his request to bring his boyfriend, 21-year-old Jean-Paul Dumond, to the prom was denied by Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic Secondary School on grounds that homosexuality is not in line with the Roman Catholic teachings of the school. A judge disagreed and granted an injunction, both allowing Hall and Dumond to attend prom - which they did - and preventing the school from canceling the prom altogether. During the heated controversy, school board member Stan Karwowski resigend after it was revealed that he sent emails in which he called Hall a "faggot." The story was the inspiration for the 2005 film Prom Queen: The Marc Hall Story.
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  • Video: YouTube
    After Proviso East High School Principal Milton Patch told lesbian student Belinda Sanchez that she was not permitted to wear a tuxedo to the 2011 prom as she wished, the ACLU got involved in this Chicago-area case. Thought the school district later allowed Sanchez to wear the tux, they also claimed that the decision was made before the ACLU intervened, not after.
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  • Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    In a case of one teen having a really awesome mom, Starmount High School in Booneville, NC, originally denied a request to a student named Chase who sought to bring his boyfriend Jordan Nixon to his 2010 prom. Jordan's mother Leesa stepped in, saying she would take action and expose the school's discrimination. The school responded by changing the language in their official policy to allow each student to bring a "guest," not necessarily a "date." At least it was a step in the right direction...

    Too bad other parents at the southern high school were not as accepting. They went as far as to threaten to organize a second "invitation only" prom for "straight kids" so they would be exposed to the "sickness" of homosexuality, all the while preaching Bible quotes and asserting what is "right." Some people, man.
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