When a Starmount High School student asked his principal if he could bring his boyfriend to prom in 2010, the principal told him he couldn’t.
The student’s mother challenged the decision and, on the advice of an attorney, the school board eventually voted to allow the gay couple to attend.
Larry Vestal, 68, a retired state employee, was the only board member to speak out publicly on behalf of the couple.
“I had people call and tell me they would never vote for me again,” Larry Vestal said. “Some of them were very ugly. They said that we should tell the two boys not to come to the prom, that we should cancel the prom. There even was a movement to have an alternative prom.”
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Vestal lost his re-election in the rural county of 38,000 residents where many constituents believe homosexuality is a sin. He believes speaking out contributed.
“They disagreed so much with what we did on that issue,” he said. “I got many phone calls over that, the only calls I received during my whole tenure.... Some of them were very ugly.”
He said he has no regrets. “It was the right stand.”
The incident reminded Vestal of something that happened at his own prom at Jonesville High School in the 1960s. He said a gay friend didn’t attend because he felt uncomfortable taking a girl, and was afraid to take a boy.
“The prom is something most people really look forward to,” Vestal said. “That guy didn’t have that memory like I did.”
He said he wanted to make sure it didn’t happen to the Starmount High student.