Constitutional Law

Miss. School Hopes to Derail Lesbian’s Lawsuit with Bikini Photo

A Mississippi school district is offering new evidence in an effort to win dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a lesbian teen who wore a tuxedo for her senior photo.

Ceara Sturgis claims the Copiah County School District illegally discriminated against her on the basis of sex and sex stereotypes when it excluded her photo from the senior section of the yearbook. Sturgis claimed she liked to wear masculine clothes and did not want to wear the required “drape” that gives the appearance of wearing a dress or a blouse, according to a press release and the lawsuit (PDF).

The school district is offering a different photo in an effort to defeat the claim—a picture of Sturgis in a bikini, the Associated Press reports. “Indeed, it is hard to conceive of an item of clothing more sexualizing and feminine than a bikini,” the district said in court documents.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi is representing Sturgis along with lawyers from Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel. ACLU lawyers say the swimsuit photo shows Sturgis also wearing long shorts. It was taken at a pool party, a senior class function.

Although the yearbook did not publish the tuxedo photo in the senior section, it did run the picture on a personal page purchased by Sturgis’ mother, the AP story says. The suit claims violations of Title IX and the equal protection clause.

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