Bleckley prom goes smoothly

jhubbard@macon.comApril 18, 2010 

COCHRAN — Bleckley County High School senior Derrick Martin made history Saturday when he arrived at his high school prom on the arm of another boy.

He was the first in his hometown of Cochran — and perhaps in Georgia — to ask permission to take a same sex partner to prom and have his school allow it.

About 7:45 p.m., couples started to arrive at the high school in a line of stretch limos, a bus, a John Deere tractor and even carriage and buggy, and afterward walked through a crowd of parents and friends who snapped photos.

When Martin, 18, and his boyfriend Richard Goodman, also 18, stepped onto a makeshift “red carpet” and their names were announced, a few parents whispered but many in the crowd gave him a loud cheer. No one yelled out in protest.

“I wonder if they realize what they’ve done,” said Arturro Beeche, a San Francisco professor who flew into Georgia on Friday and drove Martin and Goodman to the prom. “Once it happens in small-town America, it will inspire so many,” he said.

Security was tight with at least 15 officers stationed at the high school, and no one could enter the parking lot without a ticket.

Martin asked his school system for permission to take a same sex partner to prom earlier this school year.

At his high school, prom dates from outside counties must be approved in advance, so Martin went to his principal and asked. After discussion with the superintendent and school board, officials eventually granted permission, saying they had no policy in place against it. “You don’t have the right to say no,” principal Michelle Masters said in a previous interview.

The move had been met with some conflict, such as talk of a separate prom.

A few weeks back, a small group of students held an opposition rally in front of the town courthouse to protest. Martin’s parents also kicked him out of his home after the publicity.

But a rally in support of Martin was also held in a Macon park and supporters have donated more than $5,000 for college this fall.

“You have to do what you think is right,” Martin said the Friday while he and Goodman picked up their matching black and white tuxedos. “I was tired of being sneaky and hiding things.”

Goodman, a senior at Tift County High, said a few same sex couples have messaged him saying they would now ask to attend their proms together.

“Oh, and by the way we’re going to my prom May 8,” Goodman said to a surprised Martin.

Martin simply replied, “That’s your fight.”

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.