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More high school proms opening doors to same-sex couples

prom dates
Nicholas' prom date attaches his boutonniere before the prom  

May 31, 2000
Web posted at: 11:20 p.m. EDT (0320 GMT)

In this story:

'It has not been an issue ...'

Nontraditional prom voted down


WALLINGFORD, Connecticut (CNN) -- Sometimes against their will, more high schools across the country are opening their proms to gay teens who bring a same-sex date.

VideoCNN's Maria Hinojosa looks at same-sex couples at high school proms.
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On his recent prom night, 17-year-old Nicholas was as excited as most teen-agers getting ready for the big dance.

But unlike most teens, this young man's prom date would be another young man, 18-year-old Kevin.

"It's something that I've wanted to do since I first came out," said Nicholas, who revealed he was gay during his sophomore year.

'It has not been an issue ...'

"We have the marches, we have the (gay) pride rallies all over the United States, why is it such a shock that people want to bring same-sex prom dates? I mean what is the big deal?" Nicholas said.

At Nicholas' high school in Wallingford, Connecticut, the principal said it was no big deal.

Keane's high school voted against a nontraditional prom  

"It's just something that is going to happen. It has not been an issue with regard to the administration, nor has it been an issue, to the best of my knowledge, with the students," said Sean Meehan, principal of Mark T. Sheehan High School.

A straight "A" student and gay youth activist, Nicholas and his date were welcomed into the party.

While Sheehan High School was open to the idea of same-sex couples at the prom, active resistance at other schools across the country has pushed gay and lesbian students to action.

"I was excited about it -- my junior year -- going to go to my prom like everybody else," said Ryan Keane of Crosby High School in Waterbury, Connecticut. "I just wanted to go like everyone else."

But apparently many other students at his school didn't want him there with his choice of date.

"What happened with my class was there was just a lot of talk, saying they didn't want gay people at their prom, you know, 'fags,' or whatever," Keane said.

Nontraditional prom voted down

Students at Keane's high school tried to bar his date by holding a vote for a traditional or nontraditional prom. Ryan lost the vote but kept on fighting through legal means.

"Students will call us and say is this legal? Can they do that?" said Jennifer Middleton, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.

After Keane called the ACLU, it immediately sent a letter to his school, reminding administrators that Connecticut public schools must allow all students to take part in activities, no matter what their sexual orientation.

"I felt I had won," Keane said. "That was my whole mission."

Just outside of Houston, Morgan Thompson made the same phone call. And after the ACLU got involved, her high school allowed her to take her female date.

"There are more kids who want to take a same-sex date to the prom, more and more every year," said Middleton. "They are coming out to their parents and friends earlier than they ever have before."

Nicholas said he didn't mind being a role model.

"I hope it will give other students the courage to be open about who they are as a person and feel safe and bring people to their prom because a big thing about me being so open and telling my story is to let others know that they can do it too," Nicholas said.

ACLU: American Civil Liberties Union
Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network

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