Hayley Lack, a high school senior in California. (Courtesy of Hayley Lack)

In a few years, Hayley Lack, a 16-year-old in a lesbian relationship, could conceivably apply for a marriage license in her home state of California.

But for now, at least, the senior at Foothill High School in Palo Cedro is barred from representing her relationship in the one ceremony that matters most to many young people — prom.

Even though she and her girlfriend were nominated to become this year’s prom king and queen, Lack, who enjoys overwhelming support from fellow students, has been told by school administrators that she’s ineligible, according to the Redding Record Searchlight.

The reason, administrators told the paper, is that having two members of one gender would exclude the other.

“Their argument doesn’t make sense to me,” Lack told the Searchlight. “We don’t need a female on the football team or a male cheerleader to be fair — why do we need a guy when the couple nominated is a female couple?”

In a video posted on YouTube, Lack said that after she and her girlfriend were nominated as a couple, their bid was halted by the school’s administration. Calling the administration’s decision “obvious discrimination,” she said they want to change the nomination process for “future generations” so that other LGBT students can avoid similar battles.

Lack and her girlfriend are circulating a petition to have Foothill change its voting system, the Record Searchlight reported. As of last Tuesday afternoon, Lack told the paper, they had collected more than 100 signatures.

“Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I couldn’t be a king,” Lack told ABC affiliate KRCR.

Principal Jim Bartow told the Record Searchlight that the current system is fair and noted that he will not allow a female to be crowned king. He compared the process to other school activities that need to be equal between males and females.

“If they are a boy they are running for king, if they are a girl they are running for queen,” he said. “It’s got to be equal for both genders, and that’s what it is all about. We want it to be equal.”

“It’s not fair to the boys, you know, and it wouldn’t be fair to the girls if we allowed boys to run for queen,” Bartow told KRCR.

Messages left with the Shasta Union High School District, which oversees the Foothill campus, were not immediately returned.

But Shasta Union High School District Superintendent Jim Cloney told the Record Searchlight that prom court decisions fall under the authority of individual schools.

A statement released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and signed by Elizabeth Gill — a senior staff attorney with the organization — said the school’s policy violates the “constitutional and statutory rights of gay and lesbian students” and demanded that it be “rescinded immediately”:

Students have a recognized free expression right to bring same-sex dates to the prom, and that right extends to running for prom king and queen. As a federal court in Mississippi found more than five year ago, ‘this expression and communication of her viewpoint [bringing a same-sex date to prom] is the type of speech that falls squarely within the purview of the First Amendment.

. . . The nomination form for prom king and queen allows students to nominate couples, and it is our understanding that different-sex couples are often nominated for and elected prom king and queen. To prohibit same-sex couples from engaging in an activity regularly allowed different-sex couples is discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Sabrina Vallejo, a 16-year-old junior who is dating another teenage girl, told the Record Searchlight that if she became homecoming queen and were paired with a teenage boy, she would consider it an implicit rejection of her sexuality.

“It’s kind of hard to even want to be a part of the nominations and even want to go to dances or anything . . . feeling like I can’t be myself without being discriminated against,” Vallejo said. “Every girl wants to have that moment where they feel like a princess, you know? And it’s like I can’t really express that or have that moment like any other girl would because I found happiness with someone who isn’t a boy.”

In the end, Lack thinks she has a solution, a way to make the prom gender-neutral. Instead of a king and a queen, students would nominate “Royalty 1 and Royalty 2,” she told KRCR.

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