Archival black and white photo of Aaron, his date, and an attorneyHigh school prom date choices are rarely newsworthy, but in 1980 Aaron Fricke found himself in the headlines because he wanted to bring a boy to his school dance. It took legal intervention and a preliminary injunction to protect his right to be himself at school – a right for which we continue to fight 42 years later.

On this day in 1980, a court ruled that a Rhode Island high school student had the right to bring a same-gender date to his school dance in Fricke v. Lynch. GLAD founder and co-counsel on this milestone case, John Ward, argued that Cumberland, RI-native Aaron Fricke had his constitutional rights violated by his school when they denied his request to bring another boy as his date. Learn more about Aaron’s case and the ruling of the US District Court for the District of Rhode Island on GLAD’s podcast episode “Tuxedoes for Two.”

Since Fricke, courts have recognized that LGBTQ+ youth have the right to bring a date of any gender with them to school dances, on the same terms as any other student. GLAD has been fighting for equitable treatment for LGBTQ+ youth in all areas of their lives, especially in schools. Young people need to have their identities affirmed and to feel safe at school so they can learn and become adults with the tools to thrive in life.

But in the past year, this fight has intensified in the form of legislation that seeks to control, surveil, and censor LGBTQ+ young people. These bills have been particularly targeted at transgender young people and their participation in school sports and access to medical care. More recently these attacks have broadened to classroom censorship banning discussions about identity that may make some students or their parents uncomfortable, like implicit bias and historical discrimination – including LGBTQ+ identity, but also race and gender.

These legislative attacks work in concert to create a hostile environment for LGBTQ+ youth, especially LGBTQ+ young people of color and with other intersectional identities. We must ensure that youth can be their full selves at school, and that means their full and equal participation in all areas of education. That also means being able to talk about our country’s history openly and honestly, so that we can work together to create a better, fairer, and more inclusive future. GLAD has been in this fight for decades, and we invite you to join us.

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