Correction Appended Feb. 12, 2013.
A group of students and parents at Sullivan High School in Sullivan, Ind., have banded together to push for a “traditional” prom that would prohibit their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered classmates from attending.
The group met on Sunday at the town’s First Christian Church to discuss the possibility of holding a separate, segregated dance after the principal of Sullivan High, David Springer, told a local NBC affiliate that “Anybody can go to the prom” when asked to clarify whether same-sex couples would be allowed to walk in the event’s grand march, set to be held April 27.
According to WTWO, one member of the group is a local special-education teacher, Diana Medley, who told the NBC affiliate, “I believe [homosexuality] is a choice. I don’t believe they were born that way. I think that life circumstances made them that way.” She says she works with students who come out to her and cares about them, even though she doesn’t “agree with them.”
The students and parents formed a Facebook page, called 2013 Sullivan Traditional Prom, to support their cause. The page has since been taken down, but columnist-activist Dan Savage has screen grabs of a few of the comments. Some of the comments defended the group’s mission (“We would like to stress to everyone that this is not a hate group. We do not hate anyone, we are not judging anyone. We are choosing to stand on the word of God”), while others urged supporters to stand together (“With all the media and stuff going on now, let us keep in mind that we are to be loving to all and to be in prayer so satan doesn’t get in to divide”).
(MORE: 10 Questions for Dan Savage)
Another Facebook page, Support the Sullivan High School Prom for All, popped up to defend the school’s LGBT students. As of Monday afternoon the page had over 6,000 Likes and was adding about 1,000 Likes an hour. The page’s administrator posted a comment, reading:
“To those of you basing the community or the entire state of Indiana, I assure you that not all of us feel this way. I live in southern Indiana not too far from Sullivan and I started this group. Attitudes are changing in this area, albeit more slowly than in some other parts of the country. We must stay vocal and focus on the positive in my opinion.”
The drama playing out in Indiana is sadly reminiscent of the story of Constance McMillen, the then 18-year-old lesbian from Fulton, Miss., who in 2010 was told she couldn’t bring her girlfriend to prom. Administrators at Sullivan High may want to take note of how McMillen’s prom story ended: faced with a discrimination lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the school canceled the dance and settled the case with McMillen for $35,000. They also agreed to enforce a nondiscrimination policy.
An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified Diana Medley as a Sullivan High School special education teacher. She is a teacher at a different area school. The story also did not clarify the difference between the ‘traditional’ prom and the school’s official prom; this has been changed to emphasize that they are separate events.