Constance McMillen long looked forward to her senior prom and, like many girls at Itawamba Agricultural High, had pictured her outfit. "I decided to wear a tux, because I'm not comfortable in a dress," says Constance, 18, who has been out as a lesbian since the eighth grade. Because she wanted to bring her girlfriend, Constance asked to overturn a Fulton, Miss., school board rule that states prom dates must be of opposite gender. When the answer was no, she enlisted the help of the ACLU. The board, calling the flap a distraction "to the educational process," then nixed the prom altogether. Says ACLU attorney Christine Sun: "It's unfortunate that the school district has bashed the dreams of all these students."
While a few classmates support Constance ("They understood it wasn't my fault; it was the school's fault," she says), most blame her. "You've ruined my senior year," charged one in a text. Says Shea Moore, stuck with a $450 pink dress: "It's great to stand up for what you believe in. But when it affects many more negatively, it's time to back down." Constance, a straight-A student, won't back down, though she wishes the outcome were different. "I wasn't trying to make it to where everyone couldn't go. I was trying to make it to where everyone could."