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CNN Today

Coming Out: Gay Teenagers Fighting to Attend High School Proms

Aired May 31, 2000 - 1:25 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: For many teenagers, the prom is the social event of their high school year, but for one senior in Wallingford, Connecticut, the prom at his school is more than that. It's become a cause.

CNN's Maria Hinojosa has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIO HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seventeen-year- old Nicholas is getting ready for his prom and wired-teenage excitement is everywhere. Nick wants everything to be perfect, from the hair...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your hair looks nice, so shut up.

HINOJOSA: ... to the flowers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pick them up.

HINOJOSA: But typically, another guest is running late.

And now the rush is on to help 18-year-old Kevin get ready and fast. A typical prom night scene; or is it? Nick's date isn't the pretty girl with the curls; it's Kevin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's something that I've wanted to do since I first came out.

HINOJOSA: Which was when he was a high school sophomore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have the marches, they have the 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's the big deal?

HINOJOSA: At Nick's high school in Wallingford, Connecticut, the principal says it was no big deal.

SEAN MEEHAN, PRINCIPAL, SHEEHAN HIGH SCHOOL: It's just something that's 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.

HINOJOSA: A straight-A student and gay youth activist Nick and his date are welcomed into the party as one of the crowd.

(on camera): Sheehan High School was open to the idea of same- sex couples at their prom, but at other high schools across the country, there's been resistance, active resistance, that has pushed gay and lesbian students to action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was excited about it, you know, my junior year, going to go to my prom like everybody else. You know, I just wanted to go just like everyone else.

HINOJOSA: But apparently many other students at his high school didn't want him there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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, or fags, or whatever.

HINOJOSA: So students at his Waterbury, Connecticut high school held a vote for a traditional or non-traditional prom. Ryan lost the vote, but kept on fighting.

JENNIFER MIDDLETON, ACLU ATTORNEY: Students will call us and say: Hey, is this legal, can they do that?

HINOJOSA: Ryan called and the ACLU immediately sent a letter reminding administrators that Connecticut public schools must allow all students to take part in activities, no matter their sexual orientation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt I had won, you know, that was my whole mission.

HINOJOSA: And just outside of Houston, Texas, Morgan Thompson (ph) did the same thing. Only after the ACLU got involved, did her high school allow her to take a female date.

JENNIFER MIDDLETON, ACLU ATTORNEY: There are more kids who want to take a same-sex date to the prom, more and more every year. They're coming out to their parents and their friends earlier than they ever have before.

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

HINOJOSA: Maria Hinojosa, CNN, Wallingford, Connecticut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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