Gay Teen's Prom Date Legal Challenge Becomes CTV Movie

      TORONTO (CP) - They called him Cinderfella. All gay teen Marc Hall wanted was to take his boyfriend to the high school prom.

      But when his Oshawa, Ont., Catholic school said no, Hall became a national cause celebre in 2002, albeit a reluctant one. The dispute exploded first in the media and then into a major legal confrontation between the 135-year-old Canadian Constitution - that guarantees the separate school system autonomy - and the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms that defends sexual orientation from discrimination.

      Hall's ambivalence over being thrust into the media spotlight is portrayed in Prom Queen, a CTV movie of the week airing next Tuesday night.

      B.C. actor Aaron Ashmore (Treed Murray), who plays Hall replete with his then-trendy blue hair rinse, expects some controversy after the telecast, especially from the Catholic Church, and he thinks that's exciting.

      "I think it's a fair portrayal of where the Church stands and how they conduct their business, so I don't think they can be too angry," Ashmore says.

      Hall, meanwhile, is equally excited but anticipating little if any negative backlash over the still-sensitive issue. He says he has since moved out of his parents' home and so doubts he will face any hate mail or calls, even though the film itself clearly takes his side.

      But he notes that in real life it isn't over, that the court injunction he won allowing him to bring his male date to the school dance, hasn't yet set a legal precedent.

      "So hopefully it won't happen to anybody else, the court's gonna be in October."

      And he believes the Church is far from ready to give up the fight.

      "Their lawyers are getting prepared for the trial, we're getting prepared for the trial. I think if I win, that they would appeal it."

      Prom Queen is a curious hybrid, using Hall's real name and those of his Acadian-born parents, but declaring it's only "inspired" by real events. Other characters are fictionalized, Monsignor John Pereyma School becomes St. Jude Catholic School and even the community is changed from Oshawa to the equally blue-collar but made-up town of Inniston.

      "Some names hadn't been cleared, and they didn't really want to be a part of it, so there were things that were changed," explains Ashmore. "But I think a lot of the stuff is still true to the real story."

      Also, a whimsical if not inspired bit of casting has former Kid in the Hall Dave Foley playing Marc's homophobic school principal, with Fiona Reid delivering the kind of performance only she can as the morally uptight head of the school board.

      Ashmore says he made no special effort to play a gay character as overtly gay.

      "The way I see it, we're telling the story about a guy. You know, basically what he's doing is fighting for his rights. Just like a normal kid he just wants to go to the prom. So I didn't think there was any need to really play it gay... he happened to be gay and this happens to be his struggle."

      Asked what he hopes the film might accomplish, Hall says that maybe the door to understanding might be opened just a little more.

      "A lot of people try to avoid the topic of homosexuality and its issues. Maybe if they watch the movie they'll kind of understand what it's like. That it's just a normal life, but there's something different."

      Two years ago, the celebrity light shone briefly but brightly on Hall. A TV news helicopter shadowed his limousine to the prom. Politicians and union bosses were weighing in on the case. He himself was invited to appear on TV shows like The Lofters and Queer As Folk. He was offered the title of grand marshal in gay pride parades in Halifax, Vancouver, Sarnia, and Windsor, Ont., and rode the equal-marriage float in Toronto's version.

      But all that's died off since, although it might resurface after the telecast. Still, Hall doesn't see himself as an activist, a poster boy for gay rights.

      "When it first started, when the media wanted interviews, I enjoyed it but it was stressful. Then at one point, I was like 'Ohmigod, I don't want to do any more!' But then I kind of miss it now. I got so used to it."

      One thing has definitely changed. The film ends with a kiss and the banner line: "And they lived happily ever after."

      But in real life, in the glare of the public spotlight, Hall and his boyfriend J.P. ended their relationship 10 days after the big prom.

      Hall concedes it was the pressure of the notoriety.

      "Pretty much. And then afterwards, we mutually agreed that we might be better off if we just broke up."

      He now has a new companion.



John McKay / Canadian Press