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Civil Rights and Rites of Passage

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‘Drop Dead Diva’ goes to the prom.

Wanda Sykes (l) and Amanda Bearse guest star on an all-new episode of Drop Dead Diva. Photo by Bob Mahoney/Lifetime Television.

When real-life Mississippi high school student and young lesbian Constance McMillen wanted to take her girlfriend to their prom and wear a tuxedo, the decision-makers at her high school were so outraged that they canceled the prom. Next, they rescheduled it for Constance and her supporters, but held it in a different location than the school’s regular dance. Then in a major separate-but-equal move, the adults had the nerve to hold a completely different prom—a private one—for the straight kids.

After McMillen and the American Civil Liberties Union were awarded $81,000 by a judge who ruled that her rights had been violated, the young student was also awarded a hefty scholarship on Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show, was accompanied by comedian Wanda Sykes to the GLAAD Awards in Los Angeles (with her girlfriend and wearing that tuxedo, no less), and was named one of Glamour magazine’s 2010 Women of the Year.

McMillen’s story caught the attention of producers of Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva, who have fashioned it into an episode appropriately starring Sykes, Lance Bass, Clay Aiken, and Amanda Bearse. And if you don’t blink, you’ll see McMillen herself playing a court bailiff in Sykes’s courtroom.

Cleverly, the episode’s accompanying side plot questions the sanctity of the two-month-old marriage between a man and the runaway Russian bride he met after plunking down $6,000 to an international dating service.

Jamie Babbitt directs. Sunday, July 24, at 8 p.m. (central time). Lifetime Television (www.lifetime.com).

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