If you or anyone you know has been told they may not attend a school prom with their same-sex partner, the ACLU has prepared a letter for students, parents and friends of gay people to present to the Principal or Superintendent of any school that has announced an “opposite-sex” (as the one who didn’t win Miss America calls it) policy.
As we approach Prom season in high schools across the country, it is important that the GLBT students who have been so marginalized, ridiculed, hated, beaten and killed for being Gay have not suffered in vain. There is a second letter the ACLU has prepared for any girl who wishes to wear a tuxedo, a fashion statement (and so much more than that!) frowned upon by most schools. Below you will find the text of the general prom message from the ACLU, and you can download the pdf file of both letters here.
April 15, 2009
Dear Superintendent or Principal:
There may be in effect a policy at one or all of your schools prohibiting couples of the same sex from attending proms or school dances. On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU), I’m writing to inform you that such a rule violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian students and must be rescinded immediately.
Any policy excluding same-sex couples from proms or school dances violates the right to free expression guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This is not just the opinion of the ACLU. It was the conclusion of a federal court in a case in which a gay high school student successfully challenged his school’s ban on same-sex couples at prom. [Fricke v. Lynch, 491 F. Supp. 381 (D.R.I. 1980)]
In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a policy of a public entity (like a public school) that’s based on animosity or prejudice towards gay people violates equality rights guaranteed to all Americans by the 14th Amendment. [Romer v.Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996)]
But whether based on prejudice or not, it is unconstitutional to exclude same-sex couples from school dances. In Fricke v. Lynch the principal being sued testified in court that the school’s prom policy was based on concern about possible disruption and violence at the prom in reaction to the participation of a gay couple. The federal judge was convinced of the sincerity of the principal’s concern but ruled that the Constitution required the school to take steps to protect the couple’s free expression rather than to stifle it. “To rule otherwise would completely subvert free speech in the schools by granting other students a ‘heckler’s veto’, allowing them to decide through prohibited and violent methods what speech will be heard,” wrote the judge.
Please do not hesitate to contact the Project if you have any questions about the above or if we can be of any assistance to you. We can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Very Truly Yours,
James D. Esseks
ACLU LGBT Project