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Court ruling makes LI 'gay prom' more special

Wantagh engaged couple Brittany Alvarado, 18, and Christina

Wantagh engaged couple Brittany Alvarado, 18, and Christina Cerda, 20, attend LIGALY's 15th annual prom on June 26, 2015, at the Courtyard Marriott in Ronkonkoma. Credit: Jennifer A. Uihlein

When Brittany Alvarado and Christina Cerda first planned on attending prom, they had no idea the day would become historic.

"It took a minute to register," said Alvarado, 18, of the text message she received from a friend earlier in the day informing her of the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 vote giving all Americans, regardless of gender, the right to marry.

Alvarado and fiancee Christina Cerda, 20, were excited to attend LIGALY's (Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth) 15th annual LGBT prom on Friday, but the news made the evening even more special.

"Equality should be for everybody," Alvarado said. "We are all human. We are all the same."

For Alvarado and Cerda, their high school experiences were similar: They said they endured bullying, name-calling and physical altercations. Alvarado eventually left traditional high school education, opting for online learning.

"There is no prom," Alvarado explained of her online studies at Penn Foster High School.

But for the Wantagh couple, the LIGALY prom filled that vacuum.

"It's amazing. It's beautiful," Alvarado said of the prom, held at the Courtyard Marriott in Ronkonkoma. "It's actually the perfect prom."

The LIGALY prom started in 2001 to address the needs of LGBT youth, and is referred to by the LGBT Network as "America's first-ever full-fledged 'gay prom' in the suburbs."

"Our young LGBT kids should have a real prom of their own. They should have a night where they can be themselves. Bring whomever they want to bring," said David Kilmnick, CEO of the LGBT Network, a non-profit organization that serves the Long Island LGBT community.

The inaugural event was held at Island Hills Golf Club in Sayville. It was a sellout, with 300 youth in attendance.

Unlike some traditional proms where one boy is dubbed king and a girl crowned queen, the

LIGALY prom celebrates a rainbow court, honoring six exceptional youth. Each
color has a significant meaning, and the honorees are selected on virtues related to colors: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for light, green for growth, blue for harmony and violet for spirit.

While many LGBT youth have become more comfortable attending their own school proms throughout the years, Kilmnick says, "There are even more that don't. And so this prom continues to serve an important need for our young LGBT youth."

Across the hall, the LGBT Network sponsored a rally in celebration of the Supreme Court decision.

"By having the prom the same night as the victory, it sends a message to our youth," explained Kilmnick. "As young kids, they can start to think, maybe their prom date may be the person that they marry, and that is something that is incredibly special."

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