Stacy Dawson, an openly gay junior at Scott County Central High School in Southeast Missouri, simply wanted to attend the school prom this spring with his boyfriend. But his school, like many others across the country, prohibited same-sex couples from attending dances together.
Enter the Southern Poverty Law Center - to urge, Feb. 14 that the school rescind its policy, calling it an unconstitutional infringement on Dawson’s right to free expression under the First Amendment.
Earlier today (Feb. 15), the school announced via media reports that they are revising their policy allowing Stacy Dawson and his boyfriend to attend the school dance together.
“We welcome the change that has been reported in the media and Superintendent McFerrens remarks that Stacy will be allowed to attend prom with his boyfriend, although we have not yet received written confirmation that the unlawful policy has been permanently rescinded and removed from the student handbook," said Alesdair Ittelson, staff attorney for the SPLC. "If it is indeed true that the policy has been permanently changed, it represents a big step forward for LGBT students in a part of the country that frequently lacks community support for students like Stacy. We applaud Stacy’s bravery in standing up for his rights.”
Vital VOICE had the honor of interviewing Stacy about his fight for equality while this news was breaking:
Colin Murphy: Could you share a bit of your coming out story?
Stacy Dawson: I really started realizing I liked guys fully when I was a preteen. I had my first relationship with a guy at the age of 15, and came out to everyone at 16 years old. Being gay has just always felt completely normal to me.
CM: How are you handling all of the media attention? Have you received any feedback from your fellow students?
SD: Addressing the media hasn't been a problem at all since it's all for a cause I really care about. I've received amazing feedback from some of my fellow students. Some even put together a petition in hopes that it might help with my chances to bring my date! I'm really feeling the love and I thank them for being so supportive
CM: How long have you been dating your boyfriend? Has the experience brought you closer together?
SD: I will have been dating my boyfriend for a year on February 21st, 2013! It's an incredible feeling to be in such an amazing and loving relationship. It hasn't exactly changed our relationship for the good or the bad, except that for the fact that we will be able to make the walk to prom together. That really has us happy.
CM: What kind of support system/community do you have in Southeastern Missouri as a young gay man?
SD: I really haven't ever had too big of a problem with the community other than a few gay slurs and this whole prom issue, and I'm not aware of any GSA or club like that for young gay men and women. There really isn't a way for the gay community to come together unless someone starts a way.
CM: What does going to prom with your boyfriend mean to you, personally?
SD: It's a great feeling to know I'll be able to spend time with my boyfriend and my close friends at an event I'll be able to look back on for the rest of my life.
CM: How did you approach your school about wanting to take your boyfriend to prom - what was their response?
SD: Every school year my school goes over the school handbook at the beginning of the year. When I heard the line about bringing only an opposite-sex date, I really thought about it. During the fall semester I went to talk to a school official asking them if it would be fine for me to bring my same-sex date. They said they would ask the school board about my issue. After a few weeks, I approached the school official and they said that the school board said that since it was a school policy, it would take a while for it to be changed. It seemed as though they were avoiding the issue of me bringing my date.
CM: How did that make you feel and how did you get to where you are now with SPLC?
SD: It really surprised me. I'm a very hard working student at school. In all truth, it really shouldn't have been a policy in the beginning. I got where I am now with SPLC all thanks to them. I sought out the help and their support has been an amazing uplift in my case.
CM: I love being able to end on a high note. We're hearing you school has decided to revise it's policy. Thoughts?
SD: The revising of the school policy makes me ecstatic. I'll get to spend this incredibly important moment with my boyfriend, and hopefully it will be documented in the yearbooks for me to look back on forever.
By COLIN MURPHY - EDITOR
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