Constance McMillen said she considered backing down when school officials canceled a prom after she asked if she could bring her girlfriend. But then the 18-year-old from Fulton, Miss., thought about the point she was trying to make. "It's wrong for schools to do that, it's wrong to discriminate," McMillen told the Associated Press.
Her stand made her feel like an outcast in her hometown, but she hasn't looked back. She has traveled the country making high-profile media appearances and visited the White House as an invited guest. On Sunday, 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 the things McMillen did was bring a lot of attention to her tiny Mississippi town. Upfront about her sexual orientation, she said she had approached officials at Itawamba Agricultural High School 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 she was refused, the American Civil Liberties Union got involved and McMillen filed suit. She said the suit made her a pariah in Fulton, cost her friends and made her finish her senior year at another school.
But if Fulton has closed its doors to her, as she says, the larger world has opened up. "I don't care if people know who I am," she said, as long as they know "there was this girl that did stand up."
* * *
Child deaths in vehicles on rise
Temperatures are rising and so are reports of infants and toddlers dying from being trapped inside sizzling automobiles. A researcher says 18 children have died of hyperthermia since the beginning of the year, with eight deaths reported since June 13. That's the largest number of fatalities through the first half of a year since Jan Null, an adjunct professor of meteorology at San Francisco State University, began tracking the data in the late 1990s. Government and safety experts are telling parents that they never should leave children in an unattended vehicle or allow kids to play in cars and trucks.
* * *
Custer flag now valued at millions
Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the men of his 7th Cavalry Regiment went into the Battle of the Little Bighorn with flags flying on June 25, 1876, but they were wiped out, and nearly all their military artifacts were carried away by the victorious Lakota Sioux warriors. A single swallowtail flag known as a guidon was found days later under the body of a fallen soldier. Sotheby's announced Friday that the flag's owner, the Detroit Institute of Arts, will auction it in October and use the proceeds to build the institute's collection. The flag's estimated value: $2 million to $5 million.
* * *
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of plastic bags used each year by Californians. To fight litter and lighten the trash at landfills, proposed legislation would ban grocery, liquor and drugstores from providing free paper or plastic bags. Shoppers would be encouraged to use reusable fabric bags.