Last week, we told you how a high school in Redding, California, was refusing to allow a lesbian couple to be nominated as prom king and queen.
Jim Bartow (right), the principal of Foothill High School, stated that allowing two girls to serve as prom king and queen would amount to gender discrimination in violation of federal law.
But Haley Lack (above) and her girlfriend fought back, and now they’re getting some help from the ACLU of Northern California, which is demanding that the school change its policy.
In a letter to Bartow dated Monday, ACLU senior staff attorney Elizabeth Gill wrote:
Students have a recognized free expression right to bring same-sex dates to the prom, and that right extends to running for prom king and queen. As a federal court in Mississippi found more than five year ago, “this expression and communication of her viewpoint [bringing a same- sex date to prom] is the type of speech that falls squarely within the purview of the First Amendment.”1 The expression courts have found inherent in bringing a same-sex date to the prom—the expression of a sexual orientation, the statement of equality for same-sex couples, and the challenge to traditional gender roles—is no less true of a student and her female prom date seeking the titles of prom king and queen. If anything, it would only amplify all these messages for the same-sex couple to seek and potentially win prom king and queen.
It is also plainly illegal under applicable law—the U.S. Constitution, the California Constitution, and the California Education Code—to discriminate against students based on sexual orientation.2 The nomination form for prom king and queen allows students to nominate couples, and it is our understanding that different-sex couples are often nominated for and elected prom king and queen. To prohibit same-sex couples from engaging in an activity regularly allowed different-sex couples is discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The prom, where students will vote on king and queen, is set for Saturday, and Gill is demanding a response from Bartow by Tuesday.