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Maryland high school reverses ban, will allow play to include gay scene


BEL AIR, Md. — Students in a suburban Baltimore high school’s drama club are rejoicing after school administrators reversed a decision that would have prevented them from staging a play that included a scene in which two young men come to realize they are attracted to each other.

The critically acclaimed play, “Almost, Maine,” written by playwright John Cariani, depicts characters falling in and out of love through a series of vignettes.

In “They Fell,” the scene at issue, two young men, who are longtime friends, compare notes about disastrous dates with women and come to realize that they are attracted to each other. The two make no physical contact and use no graphic language.

According to the students, the production was approaching final rehearsals when the faculty adviser at Bel Air High School took the play to the administration asking that the particular scene be reviewed for “appropriateness.”

When the school’s administrators told the drama club to cut that scene, they immediately took the decision to the American Civil Liberties Union and petitioned ACLU officials for their assistance.

“Cutting the scene was definitely censorship, it repressed creativity,” Junior Julia Streett, president of the Bel Air High School’s Gay Straight Alliance, and who is involved with the show’s production, told The Baltimore Sun on Friday.

Deborah A. Jeon, ACLU Maryland‘s legal director, wrote school officials Wednesday demanding that the scene be restored to the production. Jeon cautioned them their decision violated the students’ right to free speech.

“It is the only portrayal of same-sex love in the play; it is also the only portion of the play the drama club was required to remove. The decision to censor the play to eliminate representation of same-sex love and gay identity is unlawful and we demand that the decision be reversed,” she wrote.

The Hartford County Maryland School Board reversed the decision Friday, and the play will open on schedule Nov. 10.

“I’m glad the school board has come to a reasonable decision and that we get to perform the play as it was intended to be,” said Streett, reacting to the decision. “There didn’t need to be a big and crazy controversy, since portrayal of a same-sex relationship is a part of life and no one should be discriminated against just because of their sexual orientation.”

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