Maverick Couch got a lot more than he bargained for when he wore a a T-shirt to classes at Waynesville High School in Ohio last year with the slogan ‘Jesus is not a homophobe’ on it.
After being called into the principal’s office, he agreed to turn the shirt inside out. It also had a rainbow Ichthys (or ‘sign of the fish’) on it. But Couch went home and slept on it and decided to wear the same shirt to school the next day. He was then threatened with suspension.
Fast forward 13 months: A court has ruled that Couch has the right to wear the T-shirt any day he chooses and was also awarded $20,000 for damages, costs and attorneys’ fees.
‘We’re very happy for Maverick and all LGBT students in Ohio,’ says Christopher Clark , a senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal which took on Couch’s case. ‘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.’
Last month, the school district said Couch could wear the T-shirt but only on April 20 which is National Day of Silence. That did not satisfy Lambda Legal which pressed on with its legal action.
‘I just wanted to wear my shirt,’ Couch says. ‘The shirt is a statement of pride, and I hope other students like me know that they can be proud, too.’