Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres thanked
Constance McMillen – the teen at the center of an ACLU
anti-discrimination lawsuit – for standing up for everyone's rights
and presented her with a $30,000 college scholarship.
McMillen's Fulton, Mississippi high
school decided to cancel its annual prom dance rather than allow
McMillen to attend with her girlfriend.
“I admire you so much,” the openly
lesbian chat host told her guest Friday on Ellen. “When I
was your age I never would have had the strength to do what you are
The 18-year-old contacted the ACLU of
Mississippi after school officials told her she could not attend the
dance with her girlfriend, also a student at Itawamba Agricultural
High School (IAHS), and that if they arrived separately but
slow-danced together they might be kicked out. Officials also told
McMillen she could not wear a tuxedo to the event.
With the assistance of the ACLU,
McMillen is suing the school board to reinstate the April 2 dance. A
hearing is set for Monday.
DeGeneres presented McMillen, who has
become an overnight celebrity, with an oversized $30,000 check from
the website Tonic.com.
Openly lesbian celebrity chef Cat Cora,
a Jackson native, has also called McMillen inspiring.
“I was that girl from Mississippi one
time,” the Wingfield High School graduate said in a statement. “I
hate seeing things that reinforce negative attitudes about
Mississippi like this.”
Both Tonic.com and Cora have pledged to
help an effort by the Mississippi
Safe Schools Coalition to host a second-chance prom for students
that would include gay and lesbian students.
“This isn't just for [McMillen's]
civil rights,” Cora added. “This is for all Americans' civil
rights, whether they know it or not.”