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Miss. teen marshal of N.Y. Pride March

Constance McMillen fought her school’s prom policy. Constance McMillen fought her school’s prom policy.
Associated Press / June 26, 2010

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NEW YORK — Constance McMillen said she considered backing down when school officials canceled prom after she asked if she could bring her girlfriend. But then the 18-year-old thought about the point she was trying to make.

“It’s wrong for schools to do that, it’s wrong to discriminate,’’ McMillen said.

McMillen’s stand made her feel like an outcast in her Mississippi hometown, but the 18-year-old hasn’t looked back. She has traveled the country making high-profile media appearances and visited the White House as an invited guest. Tomorrow, she will be one of three grand marshals for New York City’s annual Pride March.

“I never would have had these opportunities if I hadn’t done what I did,’’ she said.

One of things McMillen did was bring attention to her tiny Mississippi town.

Upfront about her sexual orientation, McMillen said she had approached officials at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Miss., over the course of her senior year about bringing her girlfriend to the prom. Same-sex prom dates had been banned in the past, but she had hoped things would be different.

When they refused, the American Civil Liberties Union got involved and McMillen filed suit.

McMillen said the suit made her a pariah in Fulton, lost her friends, and made her finish her senior year at another school.

“It really is no one compared to how many friends I used to have,’’ she said. “There’s really nothing there for me.’’

But if Fulton has closed its doors to her, as she says, the larger world has opened up.

McMillen, who plans to go to college in Memphis to study psychology, has made appearances on TV programs, including the “The Early Show,’’ “The Wanda Sykes Show,’’ and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.’’ DeGeneres presented her with a $30,000 college scholarship from Tonic, a digital media company.

McMillen also attended the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation media awards, sharing the room with the likes of “Glee’’ creator Ryan Murphy, actress Drew Barrymore, and singer Adam Lambert. Earlier this week, she attended a White House reception with President Obama and gay activists.

Last night, residents of Woodstock threw “All Love, All Woodstock,’’ a fund-raising event featuring singer Ronnie Spector and others, in McMillen’s honor. Proceeds will go toward her college education and the ACLU.

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