April 5, 2010

Bringing Bigotry Back

Itwamba County, Mississippi is a very rural place, near the northeastern corner of that state and until recently it was famous pretty much only for being the birthplace of Tammy Wynette.  But in mid-March, it became famous for another thing:  bringing bigotry back to the Deep South.

See, at Itawamba Agricultural High School, there is a young lady ready to graduate, named Constance McMillen. She's self-assured, eighteen years old, and a lesbian.  She announced that she wanted to bring her girlfriend to the prom as a date and to wear a tuxedo.  So of course the collective reaction of the faculty, administration, and student body was to nod and say, "Oh, well, that's how Constance rolls, let's not make a big deal out of it," and then they went ahead and planned the prom anyway.  No, no, I'm kidding.  They freaked out.

They told her that if she and her girlfriend got guy friends to be their "dates," and then danced with each other, that would "push peoples' buttons" and they would be ejected from the event.  McMillen didn't back down, though; she said it was unfair.  She went on Facebook and got over 70,000 friends nationwide to petition the school district to let her take her girlfriend to the prom already.  So the school board issued a public statement:
Due to the distractions to the educational process caused by recent events, the Itawamba County School District has decided to not host a prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School this year. It is our hope that private citizens will organize an event for the juniors and seniors.
So rather than allow two young women, who were already out of the closet and openly in a relationship with one another, to be seen on a date, with one of them wearing a tuxedo, the public school district chose to cancel the prom altogether.  That wouldn't cause any, you know, negative pressure to be applied on these students who were doing nothing different than any of their classmates by having a dating relationship.  Naturally, there was public outrage.

The ACLU sued the school.  Interestingly, because both Federal and Mississippi law does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the ACLU chose freedom of expression grounds for its lawsuit instead, arguing that McMillen wanted to express her political and social points of view by going to the prom with her girlfriend and wearing a tux.  This is, in my mind, something of a close question.  On the one hand, openly dating a person of the same sex and wearing clothing traditionally worn by the opposite gender is indeed making a statement and expressing a social and political point of view.  On the other hand, a prom is not a traditional public forum and while McMillen is legally an adult, the event is aimed substantially at minors (it was a juniors and seniors prom).  So legally, I think the First Amendment argument is not open-and-shut for either side of the dispute.

Then, the American Humanist Association found some donors, Todd and Diana Steifel, who offered $20,000 to privately pay for an entire alternative prom for the whole school.  The issue should have ended there after the ACLU publicly humiliated the Itawamba County School Board.

Amazingly, though, the ACLU of Mississippi initially rejected the offer:
Although we support and understand organizations like yours, the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word "atheist," ... Our staff has been talking a lot about your donation offer and have found ourselves in a bit of a conflict. We have fears that your organization sponsoring the prom could stir up even more controversy.
The ACLU is about the last place I'd have looked for anti-atheist bigotry.  And in a place like Mississippi, you'd think the ACLU could use all the friends it could get.  So, this decision was overruled and reversed by the ACLU of Mississippi's executive director, who also apologized to the American Humanist Association and the Stiefels, who somewhat-less-than-gracefully accepted the apology.  So that kerfuffle got (sort of) ironed out.

Unfortunately, the sad story doesn't end there, either.  The ACLU's suit pressed forward and a judge made a preliminary ruling that the school district had unlawfully discriminated against McMillen and her date.  However, he did not order that the prom be reinstated.  This seems like the right call to me -- specific performance is usually very difficult thing to enforce in a situation like this.  The court certainly isn't going to organize the prom and it isn't going to be interested in overseeing the school doing it, either.  So the cancellation of the entire event was something the Court left alone despite finding that the decision to cancel the prom was motivated by a desire to prevent McMillen from expressing herself.

Then it appears that a group of parents got together and said they'd sponsor the prom in nearby Tupelo.  It looked like it had been planned in fits and starts, with a prom being announced, then shelved, then announced again.  The school district's attorney said that at the re-sponsored, re-organized prom to take place at a country club, everyone could come and McMillen would be welcome to bring her same-sex date.

What happened next, though, makes all the rest of what you've read look like an undercard. After all that drama, Constance and her girlfriend got all gussied up and they went to the announced prom at the country club in Tupelo.

Five other kids were there, including two of the developmentally-disabled students.  All the rest of the kids had gone to a "private party" for the "normal kids" organized behind McMillen's back.  "They had two proms and I was only invited to one of them," McMillen says. "The one that I went to had seven people there, and everyone went to the other one I wasn’t invited to."

Really, how low can you get?

Whoever conceived of this idea, whoever planned it, whoever tricked McMillen and her girlfriend into going to the fake prom, whatever teachers and attorneys helped create a public gloss of legitimacy over this -- you all should be deeply, deeply ashamed of yourselves instead of snickering to yourselves on Facebook.

Would you have done this if Constance McMillen had wanted to bring an African-American boy to the prom as her date?  In 1962, I bet you would have. You'd have filled in your municipal swimming pool rather than let black and white people swim in it at the same time. Just like today, you prefer not having a prom to having one where a single lesbian couple gets to show their faces in public. And now this -- you make a special "secret prom for the normal kids" and make it a point to let the lesbian girls and the developmentally-disabled kids go humiliate themselves.

I hope that each and every one of you bigoted motherfuckers get your asses sued into bankruptcy.  And that one day you'll have to ask for a loan to get out of the financial hole you got yourselves into and the loan officer you need to appeal to is Constance McMillen's wife. See comments for explanation of strikeout format in this paragraph.

30 comments:

milowent said...

yeah, this is what they did in 1962 (or 65 in this case):

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=XSAfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=qacEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6862,5131613

Transplanted Lawyer said...

Wow. Not only are these people assholes, they aren't even original about it. Thanks for the link.

Mike said...
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Mike said...
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Mike said...

Ahh, for the information you FAIL to provide...

http://www.towleroad.com/2010/04/confirmed-constance-mcmillen-attended-queer-outcast-prom-while-the-cool-straight-kids-partied-elsewh-1.html

http://nems360.com/view/full_story/6946554/article-UPDATE--McMillen-attends-sparse-Itawamba-prom?instance=home_news_1st_left

"McMillen said she knew about that event but that when she asked another student if she was invited, the student told her, “the prom is at the country club.”

“I took that as no,” McMillen said. “If I wasn’t wanted there, I wasn’t going to go.”"


Nuts to for misrepresenting the situation, and biting on misrepresentations all over the place. There was no "fake-out."

Mike said...

One thing, whether you like it or not, is that we have the right of freedom of association. Constance started a kerfluffle, so the school canceled the prom rather than have to deal with the nonsense. Constance KNEW when she made her announcement that what she was asking was quite clearly against the rules. She asked anyways, was told no, and then here comes the good old worthless, outdated ACLU, who haven't taken on a case of real worth in two decades.

From one of the teens who attended the "not-prom":

The party we had in Evergreen (the county neighborhood I live in) is 30 mins away from the school. we rented out the community center, hired vendors, decorated, and our parents ran the security/chaperone staff- but it wasn’t prom.Prom was at the country club where constance and 7 other students were. The reason the senior class boycotted the actual prom was not because we hate gays. We wanted a drama-free gathering to celebrate 3 great years and 1 lousy one together, and we wanted to lay low. We also wanted to do it without the main cause of the lousy. What people are failing to realize is that much of the fault of this whole stink lies with Constance, not her mistreatment by the school district, but her crazy-reckless need for attention.

From the same area, here's a reasonable answer to not want Constance around: CONSTANT MEDIA HARASSMENT.

i wish some of you could be here though. we have WTVA newsmen at front doors of the school every freaking morning. they flag us down to interview us as we’re coming and leaving school. im SICK AND TIRED OF IT.

"How quick come the reasons for approving what we like." - and indeed, you've managed to completely ignore the fact that, thanks to someone making a bitch of herself and causing a major problem, media harassment, constant trouble and aggravation for the entire student body, Constance pretty much assured that nobody at her school wanted to be around her.

Somebody stepped up and paid for the country club prom. McMillen's been handed scholarships, media attention, and pretty much everything she wanted.

NOTHING required the individual students, elsewise, to go to the country club prom. Nothing, for that matter, would have required them to show up for an "official" prom had the court required the district hold one.

You can scream all you want about it, but the students made their decision. Constance apparently made enough of a bitch of herself that they collectively wanted nothing to do with her, and that's that.

Transplanted Lawyer said...

It's shameful that "conservatives" like you, Mike, so often fail to distinguish between making legal judgments and moral ones. Just because someone has the legal right to do something doesn't mean it's the morally right thing to do.

Of course the students had the Constitutional right to have a private party and not go to their prom if they wished, to invite or exclude whom they chose, and to do so for whatever reason they chose. So did the white kids who set up a fake prom for the black girl to attend by herself in 1962 in the article that milowent linked.

Your challenge is not to tell me that the students had the right to do these things, because I agree with that proposition and nothing in my article suggests otherwise. Your challenge is to tell me why what happened in 1962 is in any meaningful way morally more blameworthy than what just happened in 2010.

As for the media drama, it takes two sides of a dispute to have a conflict. The school board could (and should) have shrugged off McMillen dating another girl as if it simply wasn't important to them. Boom - no drama, and no discrimination, either.

It doesn't look to me like McMillen generated the media frenzy the kids you quote complained about. McMillen didn't cancel the prom to stop a girl from dating another girl. McMillen didn't host a phantom prom to exclude a lesbian couple.

Pointing out that McMillen may very well have invited the media attention does not vindicate the school board members or the school's students of choosing to use their freedoms in a morally indefensible way.

Mike said...
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Dan said...

Wow. That is... wow.

I wish I could say that I was surprised by this. Thanks for going to the trouble to write about this at such length.

Also, for dealing with Mike.

Mike said...

Except that you are yourself saying "I hope that each and every one of you bigoted motherfuckers get your asses sued into bankruptcy."

Which is why I placed the original, now redacted, response to you.

If they LEGALLY did nothing wrong, they they shouldn't get "sued into bankruptcy." What you are suggesting is abuse of the legal system, a systemic, unethical, and amoral abuse of same.

In other words, when you claim "Of course the students had the Constitutional right to have a private party and not go to their prom if they wished, to invite or exclude whom they chose, and to do so for whatever reason they chose", you don't really mean it. Because you quite clearly, above, already came to the conclusion you want the legal system used - WITHOUT any legal basis - to "punish" anyone who doesn't think the way you do.

You want to argue morality? I'll lead with an "it sucks" and raise you a "after everything that went on you want all the kids to be forced to attend a mandatory 'prom' and sit on their asses giving Constance and her girlfriend a 30-foot diameter wide berth anyways"?

Better Lawyer Than You said...

I agree with Mike to a certain extent.

You can freely write a post that says you find the conduct disgusting. You can freely write a post saying you think the school district should have just rolled over and dropped every policy related to the prom.

You could equally freely posit the notion that even had they done this, a large number of the students might have boycotted the prom or created an alternate-prom anyways. Apparently, McMillen was not highly regarded by most of the student body well before this event, due to past behavior on her part.

Where you lose any reasonable person who might otherwise join most of your arguments, and drive anyone on the opposing fence into anger, is in your tone. Your ranting makes it clear that to your mind, anyone who does not agree with everything you say is subhuman. Your tone by nature calls many of what you are quoting as "facts" into question.

I agree with you that the holding of the secondary event, and the large boycott of the official event, probably is morally suspect. But given the vitriol in your commentary, as well as in those you link to, combined with the net effect of the media scrutiny and trouble inflicted on the student body at large, it is to a certain degree understandable that they may - even more than prior to this "kerfluffle" as you put it - wish to have nothing to do with her.

Further, TL, you are being dishonest.

Where you are dishonest first is in claiming there was "trickery" involved. From other media source quotations McMillen was fully aware of the other event, aware that at least some of her classmates were attending it instead of the official prom, and chose not to attempt to attend. Since multiple news sources have differing quotes, all attributed directly to McMillen, either she is changing her story or some of the quotes are either misattributions or misquotations and the so-called "truth" is going to be hard to come by.

It also seems that the "freak out" has something to do with McMillen not being nearly as genial with her "asking permission" claim as her supporters portray. You state that when she was denied, she immediately began making a large media push, beginning with a major Facebook campaign. If the school was receiving phone calls and other unwanted attention based on the Facebook campaign, the possibility that this factored into the decision to cancel the prom, rather than simply accede her requests, is sizable.

Given that "activist" sorts are prone to making nasty phone calls and threats, this possibility is not negligible.

Where you are dishonest second is in calling for people to have "their asses sued into bankruptcy", followed later by admitting in your response to Mike that you insist there was no legal wrong committed by those who boycotted the official prom and held their own dance.

The legal term for this, which I am sure you are aware of since you claim "aspirations to the bench", is "Barratry" - the abusive bringing of meritless claims with the intent to harass someone. Any lawsuit brought in your language for the purpose of "[suing] their asses into bankruptcy" necessarily qualifies. In almost any jurisdiction, this is illegal as well as being against Bar Association ethics codes. Sometimes it is codified under the name Barratry, sometimes under the name SLAPP ("Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation").

Let it be said now that someone who countenances such a reprehensible, unethical, and dishonest tactic, a tactic which brings to mind organized crime and Scientology, should never at any time be appointed to traffic court - let alone any higher bench.

Dan said...

I find the implication that McMillen's attempts to draw attention to herself and her desire to attend the prom in the manner that suited her somehow undercut the injustice done confounding. After all, it's no big secret that Rosa Parks was aware that refusing to move would create all manner of ruckus. She was no stranger to the civil rights movement before that bus ride. But we still laud her as a hero and model of personal courage.

Further, it confuses me that McMillen would be expected to be nice about this whole thing. What obligation did she have to be conciliatory when she was told that she could not behave like a normal teenager at the prom, with the exception of being a tuxedoed lesbian? When have civil rights figures been expected to be nice?

And what does it matter that she was aware of the other event, when it was explicitly clear she had not been invited? A significant complication of being gay or lesbian is being explicitly uninvited to participate in some pretty notable institutions. (See also: the GOP, the Catholic Church.) Was it somehow McMillen's obligation to try to attend this alternate prom once she was made aware of it? Does the fact that she did not somehow lessen the hurt she must have felt when she realized essentially none of her classmates would choose to support her by joining her at the other party?

What does it say about the moral standing of those who organized the alternative event that the only other people excluded were the mentally handicapped? What kind of adults would countenance this kind of juvenile, cruel behavior, much less make the necessary arrangements to see that it happened?

As for the legal arguments raised, I am no lawyer so have no answer for them. TL can obviously speak quite well for himself. What I find odd is that anyone would pretend that the way the night played out was anything other than cruel.

Transplanted Lawyer said...

Since this portion of the post seems to be the single tree behind which a lot of people have chosen to blind themselves to the forest, let me chop it down here and now: while I didn't explicitly state that the secret prom people should be sued for organizing the private party, I'll agree that this would have been a reasonable interpretation of the orignal post. I'll also concede that I let my moral outrage get the better of me when I wrote that paragraph. So, you may consider the last paragraph of the original post hereby retracted as improvidently posted. If I were a court, I would depublish that last paragraph. As it is, I have run strikethrough on the front page to reflect this (in my opinion) moderate change of position.

Doing so ought not to be seen as diminishing in any way my moral argument upon which the post is focused. I maintain the sentiment that these people have earned a comeuppance of some sort, on a moral level. So, here's hoping the bigots get their comeuppance (in a Constitutionally-permissible sort of way). Public humiliation seems about right -- which is what seems to be going on in the blogosphere, for instance when McMillen critics set up a "Constance quit yer cryin" Facebook page and then getting overwhelmed by people calling them the bigots that they are. You have a right to have a private prom and exclude Constance McMillen from it because you don't like her; I have just as much right to call you a bigot for doing it, and isn't that really what this is all about?

I deny that my characterization of the events leading up to the fake prom as "trickery" is dishonest. According to information available to me at the time I wrote the original post, McMillen asked both the school administration and about where the re-organized prom would be held, and she was told it would be at the country club in Tupelo. There also appears to have been very substantial and intentional confusion sowed about the private prom and what its rules would be and whether or not McMillen and her date would have been welcome at it. Better Lawyer Than You, you should be able to see the telltale signs of intentional confusion in this fact scenario. No one told McMillen, "There's going to be another party but you're not invited." That would have been treating her honestly, if unkindly.

The real issue is not whether there was a right to hold a secret prom, but rather that this particular exercise of this right, under these circumstances, can only be characterized as an act of bigotry.

I've yet to see, here or anywhere else, any kind of a moral defense to the holding of a secret prom. Pointing out that the organizers and attendees were exercising a right in doing so is a legal defense, not a moral one. Pointing out that McMillen may have been unpopular begs the question of why she was unpopular, which ultimately relates back to her being out of the closet; hence, my unrebutted accusation of "bigotry." (You are still a bigot if you're willing to tolerate homosexuals only if they're "in the closet where they belong.")

Nor has anyone responded to the idea that tolerating but otherwise not treating Constance McMillen as anyone special would have been a morally better and ultimately smarter thing for everyone to have done. McMillan is a lesbian. So what? Why did anyone care about that in the first place?

Transplanted Lawyer said...

Minor edit: "...McMillen asked both the school administration and fellow students about where the re-organized prom would be held..."

Better Lawyer Than You said...

Is there an obligation to be nice? No. But if you will notice, the best and most influential civil rights movements have been, and shall remain, those who are "nice" and comport themselves in a respectable and respectful manner.

TL, Constance McMillen, and her other supporters clearly fail this test. They are, as such, "unsympathetic protagonists."

I highly suspect that were it not for McMillen's behavior, more of her classmates would have joined her at the official prom. From the list, there were "7 other students". Only two of these were the developmentally challenged. In essence, then, McMillen has perhaps five friends (or else 5 other socially rejected students) willing to attend the official prom with her.

Mike raised a good point, which I will refactor. What is your proposed "remedy" for the situation? Would you feel any different had all those students simply stayed home on prom night, leaving the total attendance to the official prom the same? If they had arranged a private dance on a different night?

Would you have rounded them all up and forced them at gunpoint, or with the punishment of failing the semester for failing to show up, merely to make them attend prom with someone so socially odious as Ms. McMillen?

Regarding her being so socially odious, must her lesbianism be the root cause? Might it not simply be that she is unpleasant to be around in person?

These need addressing. You are making up many "facts" to suit your predisposed opinion, and attributing motives that do not hold up to the scrutiny of Occam's Razor.

Transplanted Lawyer said...

What remedy would I have awarded? Recall that I said the real judge made the right call at the preliminary injunction stage: issued a declaration that McMillan's rights had been violated and taken no further action. The judge did not "force" anyone to attend a prom and did not order the school to re-instate the prom -- nor would I have. When you and Mike suggest otherwise, you are misstating my argument.

It is reasonable to conclude that McMillen's unpopularity ultimately arises from her open homosexuality. 1) It was McMillan's request to bring a female date to the prom that caused the school to cancel the original prom. This action by the school could not have been better calculated to have called odium down upon McMillan. 2) Coming out of the closet is also an action that very often produces a diminishment in one's popularity. Ask pretty much anyone who's ever done it. 3) No one has yet pointed out any other actual thing she has ever done or said to have rendered herself unpopular. There have been some generalized references to other undescribed things in the past, but we don't know what they are. Did she insult the homecoming queen? No one anywhere I've seen, and certainly no one here, has ever pointed to anything like that either in a comment or by way of a linked reference. Absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence in the world of science, but an absence of evidence does fail to meet a burden of proof in the arena that you and I are most familiar with, Better Lawyer Than You.

That leaves us with only three articulated facts we can know about McMillan when considering her unpopularity. First, she's out of the closet. Second, she asked to bring a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend to the prom as her date, and she was told "no." Third, she went public with the second point. All of these are directly related to the root issue of her being open about her orientation. I think Dan has nicely addressed that point: she was being discriminated against when she was told she couldn't bring her girlfriend to the prom. You and I agree that she had no social, moral, or legal obligation to respond to that kind of treatment meekly or politely. So what's left? She's out of the closet, she was discriminated against, and she didn't take it lying down. Thus, she is unpopular.

Whether McMillan is a sympathetic or an unsympathetic party is irrelevant. I'm not passing moral judgment on McMillan one way or the other, but since you raised the issue, whatever moral opprobrium ought to be placed on McMillan's use of the media (which is minimal, given that she has no obligation to play nice), that pales in comparison to the outright cruelty of the secret prom. Indeed, even if the other event hadn't been a secret from anyone (a disputed fact which has been raised here and in linked citations) it would still have been cruel, bigoted, and immoral.

That brings me back to the issue that neither you nor Mike seem to want to address. If it wasn't bigotry, why did anyone care that McMillan wanted to bring a girl to the prom in the first place? You come close to agreeing with the gravamen of my original post when you said "the holding of the secondary event, and the large boycott of the official event, probably is morally suspect." If it isn't the stench of bigotry that offends you about this event, then what was it?

Jason D said...

On what legal or moral ground could the school bar constance's date (another student) or her choice in attire? No doubt other students would be bringing female dates and wearing tuxedos. The fact that those other students wearing tuxes and bringing female dates are male is inconsequential.

The school started this by taking unnecessary umbrage at Constance's date and attire. Her taking her case to the media and ACLU was both morally and legally justified.

Now kids are trying to rationalize this situation. Saying it was because nobody likes Constance, and that she's a bad person, and they didn't want media attention. They could've avoided media attention by treating constance equally rather than differently. They chose bigotry.

It's not uncommon for bullies to manufacture seemingly legitimate reasons for bullying someone. Taking actions out of context, intentionally misrepresenting conversations and actions. All in an effort to rationalize and justify their ugly behavior. In other words "She deserves it". The most I've seen is someone calling Constance a "bitch". Which is the term du jour for women who stand up for themselves.

What is amazing is two things: The overwhelming amount of students who attended the ghost prom have multiple church and Christian orgs on their facebook pages -- is this really what Christ love-each-other intended? and Secondly that parents helped do this.

This is what bullies do. When their victim fights back (and has the gall not to be nice about it! -- how ridiculous is that argument, btw?) the bully steps up their abuse and finds crueler ways to put the victim "in their place"

But the jokes on them. I doubt very seriously if employers are going to be real happy seeing "Itawamba Class of '10" and wonder if they're hiring some amazingly cruel and selfish person. I certainly would wonder about that. They're a national shame.
It will be interesting to see how this backfires both with the case and with the town.

Better Lawyer Than You said...

McMillen's unpopularity ultimately arises from her open homosexuality.

Or perhaps equally reasonable to conclude that McMillen's open homosexuality stems from her dire unpopularity?

1) It was McMillan's request to bring a female date to the prom that caused the school to cancel the original prom. This action by the school could not have been better calculated to have called odium down upon McMillan.

Given that McMillan's hamfisted public efforts to force a change, including ACLU and petition drive, happened well before the normal appeals process had even begun, the action of the school - to cancel the event that itself was the subject of controversy - is not on its face unreasonable. The canceling of events which would be attacked by large groups of people is quite commonplace.

Given the presence of already-started distraction and vitriol from the camp of McMillen's supporters, it is likely the school district felt canceling the official event was their safest course of action. As for the judge's statement to the contrary, he based his ruling on the idea that the problem had not at the time of hearing caused classroom problems. Absent the school board acceding to McMillen's wishes (something which, under large-scale threat, they were likely quite unwilling to do), were they to continue to hold the prom, the harassment from McMillen's activist supporters and ACLU-organized groups could very realistically and easily have reached the point of disrupting the learning environment of the school.

Since your response would undoubtedly be that they could have "simply" acceded to McMillen's request, I shall remind you that it is a longstanding tradition amongst humankind not to accede to the demands of someone making threats. McMillen's instant reach for a facebook army and ACLU lawyers was as I state earlier: hamfisted, overreactive, and counterproductive for her stated goal, while simultaneously being precisely what one would expect of someone for whom the real goal was the gaining of as much attention as possible.

2) Coming out of the closet is also an action that very often produces a diminishment in one's popularity. Ask pretty much anyone who's ever done it.

Such a diminishment is also normally temporary in nature. Whatever effect it had on McMillen's popularity, by all available evidence, seems quite secondary to her utter lack of ability to retain normal friendships and behave in a congenial way.

3) No one has yet pointed out any other actual thing she has ever done or said to have rendered herself unpopular... No one anywhere I've seen, and certainly no one here, has ever pointed to anything like that either in a comment or by way of a linked reference.

And why would one assume that there would be a scribe somewhere, keeping meticulous record of each bit of schoolyard goings-on? The comment that seems to pop up recurringly regards in various phrases her having some deep-seated need for attention. It is quite possible that her publicly avowed lesbianism is part of this narcissistic, attention-gathering tendency that has caused other students to have a real problem associating with her.

Better Lawyer Than You said...

That leaves us with only three articulated facts we can know about McMillan when considering her unpopularity. First... Second... Third...

Fourth, she has (at least according to the accounts of a fair number of classmates) some variant of narcissistic, hystrionic, or another attention-seeking related personality disorder. A fair number of her classmates state that this, and not her lesbianism, is the root cause of their distaste for her, and that this particular fight (which has garnered her quite a bit of attention) is merely an expression of that disorder.

She's out of the closet, she was discriminated against, and she didn't take it lying down. Thus, she is unpopular.

And in an unrelated vein - if we have a student with major attention-seeking issues, who has gone to the lengths listed above to cause a fight and eagerly pursued said fight, what is your remedy for the other students she has affected? Should they attend the "official" prom? Attend an alternative? Stay home?

If it wasn't bigotry, why did anyone care that McMillan wanted to bring a girl to the prom in the first place?

It was a regulation put in place by the school board. Quite probably, the principal of the school did not feel he had the authority to override it. A proper, normal response would be to follow the appeals process to the school board and perhaps alert local news crews to come cover the meeting. An improper, over-the-top response is to instantly organize a widespread petition (and getting 70,000 signatures off of facebook indicates a widespread effort) and drag in a group like the ACLU.

Again, this behavior is not consistent with "I don't think the regulation is right", but it is very consistent with someone who has an attention-seeking personality disorder and seems to confirm the indications from her fellow students.

So what's left? She's out of the closet, she was discriminated against, and she didn't take it lying down. Thus, she is unpopular.

Try the reverse: she is unpopular (because of previous attention-seeking behavior, an expression of her own undiagnosed disorder). One expression of this has not simply been her lesbianism, but her continued behavior of not simply being "open" but actively forcing others to pay as much attention to the fact that she is "openly lesbian" as possible. Seeing an opportunity for another fight, she goes in and attacks a longstanding policy, asks a school principal to rescind it (knowing very well that such policies normally are the province of the school board), and uses his response as an excuse for more attention-seeking behavior, culminating in the school body's collective frustration at having to dodge news cameras every day.

Better Lawyer Than You said...

If it isn't the stench of bigotry that offends you about this event, then what was it?

I am offering you a realistic alternative perspective, based on the writings and quotations from her classmates in various publications.

A useful tool for those who must be versed in the law, something you apparently lack, is the ability to put oneself in the shoes of each side of an argument. It is easy to focus only on the arguments of the side that one agrees with, and dismiss in toto the arguments of the other side as without merit and unworthy of a fair examination.

This is something you seem to do on a regular basis. This is also the reason that, even following your redaction and "clarification" of your position regarding barratry as I pointed out above, you are precisely the last sort of person I ever want to see ascend to anything higher than a court adjudicating civil traffic infractions.

Do I think there is an element of "bigotry" involved? If the term "bigotry" is narrowly defined as "people being uncomfortable with or opposed to a public expression of homosexuality", then certainly the term probably applies. Most likely, the regulation in question was written years if not decades ago, and no writer in that age even dreamed of a high-school age girl or boy trying to bring a same-sex date to the prom. If I were to guess, the regulations were probably written with a worry about the boys not arriving well-dressed enough, or the girls in too low-cut a dress or too short a skirt and thus scandalizing the morals of the community at the time.

Do I think that "bigotry" is the whole story? Based on what I have seen reviewing the case thoroughly, I doubt it. It is most likely that absent the regulation concerning bringing a date, McMillen would have found another way to cause a stir and generate the attention she sought.

There is an old adage that states that "bad cases make bad law." In this case, we have so many conflated influences and connected plausible motives that it is impossible to say with certainty what the root cause is. Instead, we are left to rely on vitriol-filled statements made by personages like yourself, most of whom seem to feel perfectly free to imagine up "facts" at a whim.

Transplanted Lawyer said...

I'm not the one in this conversation making unwarranted assumptions and drawing unsupported conclusions to reach a predetermined end result. That would be you, BLTY.

You assume McMillan has done something else worthy of unpopularity, an assumption which you admit is not based on any specific facts, only inarticulate generalizations of high school students trying rationalize their indefensible behavior and who, despite that motivation, have failed to identify any particular thing that McMillan ever did (other than being out as a lesbian).

Yes, people resist threats. But McMillan didn't come out of the starting gate making threats; that's another false assumption by you. In fact, she asked the principal if she could take her girlfriend to the prom as her date first. Only after that did she look outside the school system for help, and you concede that at this point an appeal to the media would have been appropriate.

You have no reason to believe that an appeal to the school board would not have done any good.

You have no evidence that McMillan, and not the lawyers she reached out to, was the one who personally got the publicity ball rolling. Instead, you take some high school kids' post facto word for it that she's a bad person because her school and classmates now look bad.

You suggest at least three times that McMillan's lesbianism is a byproduct of a personality disorder. You lack any competent evidence or qualifications to throw such ideas around. You certainly haven't run through any of the DSM-IV criteria. A real psychologist would diagnose a personality disorder on the biased assessments of McMillan's classmates. There are plenty of homosexuals who lack personality disorders. You've nothing but wild (and bigoted?) speculation that McMillan is gay because she's sick in the head.

And even if she were abnormally attention-seeking, that would have made McMillan, at worst, annoying. You don't have to be the annoying girl's friend, but setting up a fake prom to isolate and humiliate her is unjustifiably cruel and the grownups involved should have put a stop to it instead of helping make it happen.

You accuse me of not looking at the situation from the school's perspective or the student's perspective. But I have. You just don't like the conclusion I reached, that there is no non-bigoted explanation for why anyone ever cared that McMillan wanted to take a girl to the prom, and no non-bigoted reason to have held a secret prom so as to exclude her. The principal felt powerless to change or waive a school policy? I considered that idea, and frankly, it's bullshit. If you have a different opinion about that factual contention, oh well, but a difference of opinion like that is hardly evidence of having willfully ignored other perspectives.

Consider that 1) in my original post, I said that McMillan's free expression argument was a close question - had I been an unprincipled advocate for her, I would have labored to have come up with an argument, no matter how tortured, that she was legally in the right; and 2) when you made your first (and much more thoughtful) post indicating that a private party is protected by the Constitution, I retracted a potion of my comments because I thought that was a good point.

But while you unfairly accuse me of not looking at things from a perspective other than McMillan's, you have prosecuted a relentless attack on McMillan, never even pretending to look at things in a light remotely sympathetic to her. In fact, it is you who is the unprincipled immoderate, you who draws unwarranted conclusion on inadequate evidence, and you who is glossing over immoral and unjustifiable behavior.

Better Lawyer Than You said...

You assume McMillan has done something else worthy of unpopularity...

No, I ask you to consider the possibility. Based on the available evidence, the possibility is not unreasonable.

You have no reason to believe that an appeal to the school board would not have done any good.

Did you insert an extraneous "not" into this sentence? In any case, it is my belief that the appeal to the school board should have been conducted with a minimum of fuss. You are, I am sure, familiar with the prejudicial nature of belligerent behavior. Whatever the predisposal of the school board towards one ruling or another (and again, if McMillen has been a previous bad actor in the community, then this too would have factored in to any decision they made), her and her supporters' belligerent behavior clearly prejudiced her case in their eyes.

Instead, you take some high school kids' post facto word for it that she's a bad person because her school and classmates now look bad.

Given that, prior to the issue, there was no standing reason for McMillen to be covered by national news outlets, ACLU, blogs, and persons like yourself, all the information we will likely ever receive is post facto. That being said, it is not wholly unreliable, and the fact that numerous children from the school have made very similar remarks is indicative that there is at least some element of truth to the accusation.

You don't have to be the annoying girl's friend, but setting up a fake prom to isolate and humiliate her...

Again, what is your solution for the situation in which the children want to avoid the belligerent behavior and media circus now surrounding McMillen?

Shall they be failed from the school year and forced to repeat it?
Should they have been forced to choose between either attending the "official prom" or staying home?
Should they, as some activists have suggested, have their names spread around the entire nation as a blacklist to prevent them from gaining employment or being able to go to college?

Should something even worse be done to them, merely because they do not wish to associate with a specific person?

The principal felt powerless to change or waive a school policy? I considered that idea, and frankly, it's bullshit.

In the school district I put my children through, the principal of a given school is today quite powerless to change or waive a school policy. Indeed, should the principal be caught doing so, it is grounds for his dismissal. The policy was changed after multiple instances of unwarranted favoritism by previous principals, to provide a proper multiple-viewpoint review of requests to change or offer an exception to certain rules.

Thus, the possibility is not "bullshit" by any means.

and no non-bigoted reason to have held a secret prom so as to exclude her

A list, then:
#1 - not wanting to deal with the media circus surrounding her.
#2 - not wanting to deal with the party-crashers or activists who might follow her.
#3 - not wanting to deal with any fights or altercations she might instigate.

you have prosecuted a relentless attack on McMillan, never even pretending to look at things in a light remotely sympathetic to her

I think you are emotionally sympathetic enough to her for the both of us, and that it clouds your judgement enough to remove what little legal competency you normally possess. There is no need for me to restate points you continually make, but plenty of room for the counterpoints.

Better Lawyer Than You said...

But while you unfairly accuse me of not looking at things from a perspective other than McMillan's, you have prosecuted a relentless attack on McMillan, never even pretending to look at things in a light remotely sympathetic to her. In fact, it is you who is the unprincipled immoderate, you who draws unwarranted conclusion on inadequate evidence, and you who is glossing over immoral and unjustifiable behavior.

I consider the fact that there has been unreasonable behavior on multiple sides. I consider the fact that the origins of this conflict probably well predate the prom incident, as nothing happens "in a vacuum." I consider that many of the decisions made by people in the conflict have been made at times when the temperature of the debate was raised so high, and people or groups felt metaphorically "backed into a corner", such that alternative resolution became impossible.

You, on the basis of the severe anti-religious bigotry and pro-homosexual bigotry that you have displayed on numerous occasions, have clearly picked a side and have mentally discarded any possibility of wrongdoing on your chosen side. Protestations that you have examined the situation from all sides are quite hollow when compared to the vitriol contained in your initial post and your belittling of reasonable points afterwards.

North Dallas Thirty said...

What does it say about the moral standing of those who organized the alternative event that the only other people excluded were the mentally handicapped?

First, it says nothing of the sort.

Two students with learning difficulties were among the seven people at the country club event, McMillen recalls.

"Learning difficulties" does not mean the same thing as "mentally handicapped" or "developmentally-disabled". Indeed, one could claim with perfect right that someone with low grades has a "learning difficulty" without being "mentally handicapped" or "developmentally-disabled" in the least.

Furthermore, nowhere does it state in any of the sources provided that these individuals were "excluded" from the other party, as "Transplanted Lawyer" is claiming in the case.

So I would simply ask that Transplanted Lawyer answer the following questions.

1) Define "developmentally-disabled" and "mentally handicapped".

2) Demonstrate that the children who Constance McMillen claimed had "learning difficulties" met the definitions provided in 1).

3) Demonstrate clearly that said individuals mentioned in 2) were explicitly excluded from the other party and were unable to exercise any choice as to which they went.

4) Demonstrate that McMillen was "tricked" into going to the "fake prom" -- when the evidence is clear from McMillen's own words that McMillen knew about the other party and chose not to go.

5) Please explain why, if McMillen only wanted to be like the other students, that the ACLU openly admitted McMillen's purpose in demanding that she be allowed to wear a tuxedo and bring a same-gender sexual partner was a deliberate attempt on her part to make a public statement and demand public attention for her social and political views.

I would submit that McMillen's actions are not consistent with her statements, and in fact indicate an attempt to use incendiary words and actions to harangue a captive audience.

North Dallas Thirty said...

Also, I find the homophobia and stereotypical view of gays and lesbians among Constance's defenders to be quite entertaining.

Constance's defenders are trying to argue that she wanted to wear a tuxedo because lesbians are compelled to dress up in mens' clothes, and that failing to allow her to do so was somehow mocking her as a lesbian.

That is a falsehood. Being gay or lesbian does not require you to dress in the clothing of the opposite gender. This is a choice by McMillan to be deliberately disruptive and to violate the dress code, and is in no way relevant to her status, if indeed she is a lesbian.

Dan said...

I find the assertion that the most successful civil rights pioneers were the polite ones hilarious. Like, say, all them demure suffragettes?

Similarly hilarious is when one declaims about the habits of lesbians, and why they do what they do, as though one is some kind of authority. Presumably your commenter in Dallas is besties will all manner of lesbian.

Transplanted Lawyer said...

Dan, according to NDT's Blogger profile he lives in San Francisco. Perhaps his Blogger name is intended to signify his origins, his sports preferences, who knows? That's his business.

Dan said...

It makes no difference where he lives. (As it happens, I used to know a whole heap of lesbians in Dallas.) My skepticism comes far more from his presumption in speaking as some kind of authority about how lesbians dress than about where he happens to reside.

North Dallas Thirty said...

My skepticism comes far more from his presumption in speaking as some kind of authority about how lesbians dress than about where he happens to reside.

Actually, this is what I stated:

Constance's defenders are trying to argue that she wanted to wear a tuxedo because lesbians are compelled to dress up in mens' clothes, and that failing to allow her to do so was somehow mocking her as a lesbian.

That is a falsehood. Being gay or lesbian does not require you to dress in the clothing of the opposite gender.


Now, feel free to disagree and state that the sexual orientation of lesbian and gay men requires them to dress up in the clothes of the opposite gender.

But if you try that one, I will point out that you are wrong, and as my blog clearly states on the sidebar, I do have first-hand experience on the subject.

Dan said...

Fair enough, NDL. Being gay or lesbian does not compel one to dress in any particular way. I'll concede that point. But lesbians aplenty feel more comfortable dressing in clothing more typically worn by men, and they don't do so for the purpose of being (as you put it) "deliberately disruptive." You have no basis for saying that, or for questioning the veracity of McMillen's claim to be lesbian.