Tuxedoes for Two:
Fricke v. Lynch

Aaron Fricke before the Prom

Aaron and his date Paul talk to attorney John Gaffney just before the Prom.
Photo: Daniel G. Dunn/Picture Group.

Throughout most of his high school years in the late 1970s, Aaron Fricke didn’t know anyone who was openly gay. In his hometown of Cumberland, Rhode Island, a predominantly Roman Catholic town twenty miles north of Providence, growing up gay was grounds for fear and suspicion from adults—including teachers and school administrators—and bloody noses from students. Ostracized, harassed and taunted by classmates, Aaron struggled to be accepted—and to accept himself.

Aaron’s early struggle culminated in a landmark act of rebellion—asking a boy to the junior prom. But actually attending the prom would require a federal court order.

"Through all of my high school years I had been left out and I was tired of it," Aaron later wrote in his autobiography, Reflections of a Rock Lobster: A Story About Growing Up Gay. "I wanted to be part of a group like the other students." Also, he wrote, he wanted to make a political statement to his classmates about his dignity and value as a human being—attending the prom on his terms was a declaration of equality.

GLAD's 1980 case, Aaron Fricke v. Richard B. Lynch, is a milestone in protecting the rights of LGBT students. GLAD founder John Ward and co-counsel argued that the school's action violated Aaron's First Amendment rights of association and free speech, and his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws. The court issued an injunction just in time for the couple to attend the dance.

Paul and Aaron, respectively outfitted in navy and powder blue tuxedoes, had a fantastic time.

Additional Resources


Special thanks to:
The History Project »
The San Francisco Public Library »

News Coverage
People 6/16/80 -
A Rhode Island Town Survives Its Night to Remember as Aaron Takes Paul to the Prom
(pdf) »

New York Times 5/21/80 -
Notes on People: Ban on Homosexual's Prom Date Leads to Day in Court
(pdf) »

Boston Globe 5/22/80 -
Gay Issue May Cancel Prom
(pdf) »

Providence Journal 5/25/80 -
Homosexual's Suit on Prom Centers on Free Speech Rights
(pdf) »

Boston Herald 5/22/80 -
Senior Gets Court's Blessing to Take His Buddy to the Prom
(pdf) »

Providence Journal 5/30/80 -
Court Clears Way for Male Couple to Go to Prom Night
(pdf) »

Providence Journal 5/31/80 -
Homosexual Pair Go to School Prom Without Incident
(pdf) »

Gay Community News 5/31/80 -
Would-be Promogoer Sues School
(pdf) »

Gay Community News 5/31/80 -
Fricke Wins Fight Over Prom Date
(pdf) »

Case Materials
Judge Pettine's Decision in Fricke v. Lynch (pdf) »

Notes on Activities: Aaron's Chronology of Events Surrounding the Prom Case (pdf) »

Letter from Aaron and Paul to Teens Writing in Support of Their Case (pdf) »

Aaron Fricke
Aaron Fricke's Papers at the San Francisco Public Library (pdf) »

Aaron Fricke's Memoir Reflections of a Rock Lobster »

Sudden Strangers, written by Aaron Fricke with his Father, Walter »

Aaron Fricke on ourstory.com »

LGBT Student Resources
GLAD Information on Students and Schools »

Youth Pride Inc. (RI GLBTQ youth organization) »

GLSEN Students' Resource Page »

Safe Schools Coalition »

Current Prom Resources for LGBT Students
ACLU: Who are you taking to the Prom? »

Same-Sex Prom Dates: The Right to Dance »



Aaron Fricke and Friends

Aaron Fricke (left) in the mid-1990s with friends.



Gay Community News Cover

From the Cover of Gay Community News: "The Administration of Cumberland High School Requests the Absence of Aaron Fricke and His Date..." See the full cover image



Reflections of a Rock Lobster

Aaron Fricke's memoir about growing up gay in Cumberland, Rhode Island. Published by Alyson Publications, Inc.

PODCAST

Download the June Podcast

Tuxedoes for Two: Fricke v. Lynch

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Attorney John Ward describes the impact Aaron's fight had on gay teens across the country.

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