I used to hate high school proms and everything about them. As a high school student in the 60s, I found them regressive exercises in heterosexual coupledom, though, okay, I wouldn't have said it that way -- I didn't even know I was a lesbian.
At my high school, we cancelled our prom and produced an arts festival instead. Then, as the 70s descended, student councils developed more and more elaborate ways of partying at springtime. No longer did you have to eat bad snacks in the cafeteria! High schools took the festivities out of the school and into fancy hotels and limos.
Then along comes Marc Hall, the gay teen graduating from Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic High School in Oshawa. He wanted to take his boyfriend to the prom. The Catholic School Board said no, and suddenly going to the prom became a radical act of defiance.
Two things about the case strike me as important indicators of the direction queer and feminist politics are headed -- one points to what could turn into an intense constitutional crisis that could have an impact on all women's lives, the other underlines the pure power that goes with publicly coming out.
From the moment he made his announcement that he was suing the Durham Separate School Board for sex discrimination, Marc Hall looked like a guy who had been ready for this moment for a long time. Charming, articulate and direct, he responded to the avalanche of attention -- and support -- with a poise that was awesome.
In his hometown of Oshawa, 30 minutes outside of Toronto, he'd found a boyfriend and a few gay friends, but he'd never found a community. He had no way of knowing that his simple demand would galvanize EGALE (Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) and The Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, to say nothing of gay activists across the country.
Marc Hall had never been to Toronto's Church Street, home of one of the largest and most powerful queer communities on the planet. Even in the new millennium and wired up online, he'd never connected. His prom set the stage for what promises to be a monumental legal battle. Marc Hall won an injunction that allowed him to take his boyfriend to the prom, but the substantive case has only just started heating up. There's no question that it will end up in the Supreme Court.
When it does, the battle between gay rights and religious institutions' rights will blow up into huge proportions. It could have an impact on the funding of separate schools, and the future of Ontario's Separate School Board and could even go so far as to question the board's right to maintain discriminatory …