School sued over student’s right to wear pro-gay T-shirt

Ohio school claimed 'Jesus Is Not a Homophobe' shirt was sexual in nature

School sued over student’s right to wear pro-gay T-shirt
03 April 2012 Print This Article

Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit on Tuesday (3 April) against a high school in Ohio after a student was barred from wearing a T-shirt stating 'Jesus Is Not a Homophobe' to school on National Day of Silence.

The openly-gay student, Maverick Couch, was called into the principal's office of Waynesville High School last April and told to turn his T-shirt inside out. In addition to the slogan, the shirt also had a a rainbow Ichthys (or 'sign of the fish').

After going home and researching the matter, Couch believed he had the right to wear the shirt so he wore it to school again the next day. This time, Principal Randy Gebhardt told the student, whose mother was called to the school in Waynesville, Ohio, that he needed to remove the shirt or be suspended.

'I’ve been bullied and called names, I wanted to wear the T-shirt to encourage respect for all students, gay or straight,' Couch said. 'I wish my school would help me create an accepting environment for LGBT kids, not single me out for punishment.'

Couch researched his First Amendment rights over the summer and when he returned to school in the fall to begin his junior year, he again asked Gebhardt what would happen if he wore the 'Jesus Is Not a Homophobe' T-shirt.

After being told he would be suspended, the student contacted Lambda Legal, the US-based organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV.

After Lambda Legal sent a letter to the Southern District of Ohio informing them that the student had the legal right to wear the shirt under the First Amendment, the school district stated the principal acted correctly because '…the message communicated by the student’s T-shirt is sexual in nature and therefore indecent and inappropriate in a school setting.'

It was then that Lambda Legal decided to sue.

'Schools should be in the business of educating students about First Amendment freedoms, not trampling on their right to express themselves,' said Christopher Clark, Senior Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. 'The school has not offered – and cannot offer – any legitimate reason for threatening Maverick with disciplinary action. They have singled-out an intelligent, respectful student and tried to shame him just because he’s gay.'



No thumbnail available

Newspaper under fire for not using the name of transgender crime victim

In comment on her article, Star-Ledger reporter Susan Epstein says she wants to talk to people willing to discuss Eyricka Morgan's life as a transgender woman
No thumbnail available

Man on trial for shooting gay teen son in Turkey

A man is on trial for shooting his 17 year old gay son in what prosecutors say was an attempt to maintain his family’s honour
No thumbnail available

Leelah Alcorn's mother threw away handwritten suicide note: 'I've had enough'

Report officially rules transgender teen's death a suicide
No thumbnail available

Chinese students send 3,000 letters to urge lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage

He didn't get a response after sending 100 letters to lawmakers last year, so he roped in 20 other students to send 2,900 more letters this time
No thumbnail available

Canadian gay marriage fears quelled as government backs down

Australian marriage advocates reassure same-sex couples after Canadian scare.
No thumbnail available

Gay American murdered in Mexico, fugitive at large

Angel Javier Segovia Domínguez remains at large as the primary suspect in the murder of Leo Robert Wicard, a Pennsylvania retiree living in Mérida, Yucatan
No thumbnail available

Carmouche wins first UFC bout between two same-sex attracted women

Openly lesbian UFC bantamweight fighter Liz Carmouche has beaten Jessica Andrade in the first bout in the mixed martial arts competition between two openly gay fighters
No thumbnail available

Third Australia state recognizes overseas same-sex marriages

New South Wales follows Queensland and Tasmania
No thumbnail available

Footballer suspended for diver Tom Daley anti-gay HIV tweet

Footballer may have been victim of prank after tweet sent saying Daley and fellow diver Peter Waterfield were 'bumming' each other
No thumbnail available

US soccer pro who used gay slur suspended for three games

Houston Dynamo midfielder Colin Clark says: 'I intend to never use those words again'