The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on Monday affirmed an Ohio high school junior’s First Amendment right to wear a T-shirt with the slogan “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe” to school.
Maverick Couch, an openly gay junior at Waynesville High School, wore the shirt during the National Day of Silence in April 2011. The day of silence is meant to bring attention to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.
School officials said the shirt was “indecent and sexual in nature” and ordered Couch to turn his shirt inside out. He complied with the order. In 2012, he asked the principal for permission to wear the shirt again, but was told he would be suspended if he did so.
Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against the school on behalf on Couch, claiming the school violated his First Amendment rights.
“We’re very happy for Maverick and all LGBT students in Ohio,” said Christopher Clark, Senior Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. “If school officials had any doubt before, it’s clear now: First Amendment rights apply to all students on every day of the year, and efforts to silence LGBT youth will not go unchallenged.”
High schools across the country have struggled to balance students’ First Amendment rights with the need to maintain order. Last year, a school in Louisiana was sued by the ACLU after it disciplined a student for wearing shirt in support of LGBT rights. The ACLU also sued a school in Illinois for disciplining students who wore shirts that criticized gay people.
“I just wanted to wear my shirt,” said Couch. “The shirt is a statement of pride, and I hope other students like me know that they can be proud, too.”
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