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Court Rules Student Can Wear Anti-Gay Shirt

April 26, 2008 06:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The federal court ruling means that suburban Chicago student Alexander Nuxoll may now wear a t-shirt to school reading, “Be happy, Not Gay.”

30-Second Summary

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Nuxoll and former student Heidi Zamecnik filed the suit against Neuqua Valley High School after administrators made them remove the anti-gay t-shirts.

Christian legal group Alliance Defense Fund argued on behalf of Nuxoll and heralded the ruling as a First Amendment victory. "Public school officials cannot censor a message expressing one viewpoint on homosexual behavior and then at the same time allow messages that express another viewpoint,” said lawyer Nate Kellum.

The Indian Prairie School District, of which Neuqua Valley High School is part, said that the shirts disrupted the educational process. Jack Canna, a lawyer for the district, said, “This isn't all bad in that the ruling is specifically limited to that phrase but it doesn't allow other derogatory speech.”

Presiding judge Richard Posner wrote in his opinion, “People are easily upset by comments about … their sexual orientation, because for most people these are major components of their personal identity … But people do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or for that matter their way of life.”

The ruling came just before Friday’s National Day of Silence, when students remain silent for at least part of the day to protest homophobic bullying. Many Neuqua Valley students have worn t-shirts in support of gay rights on the day.

A 2001 study from Human Rights Watch reports that homophobic bullying can cause eating disorders, tardiness, and in the case of Wisconsin college school student Matthew Shepard, even death.

Headline Link: ‘Court Says Ill. Student can Wear Anti-Gay T-shirt at School’

Video: ‘National “Day of Silence” on Friday, April 25’

Reactions: Judge Posner’s opinion

Historical Context: Freedom of speech and ‘fighting words’

Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire, 1942
Bethel School Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser, 1986
Frederick v. Morse, 2006

Opinion: ‘ACLU Says Court Strikes Appropriate Balance, Lets High School Student Wear 'Be Happy, Not Gay' T-Shirt’

Analysis: ‘Hatred in the Hallways’

Reference: The Bill of Rights, Nuxoll v. Prairie Dist. 2, National Day of Silence and National Day of Truth

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