terrific people

Constance McMillen, 18-Year-Old Lobbyist

You already fell in love with Constance McMillen during her Mississippi high school prom struggle; some of you even wanted to be her date. But now that she’s got her dance (and graduation) out of the way, what’s keeping McMillen busy? Oh, just lobbying federal lawmakers.

Having already made it through the stage of being feted by every gay activist group that could book her, McMillen was among those at Obama’s LGBT Pride reception yesterday. But it’s not just virgin cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres for this chica. She’s also meeting with legislators.

Like Sen. Al Franken, whose anti-bullying bill (which has 23 co-sponsors) Constance is a big supporter of.

On Capitol Hill on Tuesday, McMillen huddled in a conference room with Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to talk about a bill he introduced to ban public schools from excluding gay and lesbian students from activities. She also met with some gay and lesbian congressional staffers and was to attend a gay pride reception hosted by President Barack Obama at the White House later in the day.

McMillen praised Franken’s bill, saying it was broad enough to combat all kinds of discrimination – not just involving proms – against lesbian, gay, transsexual and bisexual students. McMillen said treatment of gays is slowly improving. “It won’t be long. It’s a matter of time before LGBT people have equal rights.” Still, she said lawmakers must act on Franken’s bill. “It’s a matter of whether they are going to step up and do it,” she said.

Is Constance McMillen actually going to change the minds of lawmakers, particularly Republican ones, to get on board with such legislation? I’m cautiously positive she will — but that involves arranging meetings between she and The Hill’s more conservative lawmakers, and not just the ones she’d be obvious friends with, like Franken. These elected officials need to hear Constance’s story directly from her mouth. For America’s queer teens facing daliy harassment and torment, Constance is a bright hope.

[Clarion Ledger]