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Anti-Gay T-Shirt Suit May Wind Up In Supreme Court

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Anti-Gay T-Shirt Suit May Wind Up In Supreme Court

by Mary Ellen Peterson, 365Gay.com San Francisco Bureau

May 31, 2006 - 12:01 am ET

(San Francisco, California) A legal battle being waged on behalf of a suburban San Diego teenager who was barred from wearing a T-shirt with anti-gay rhetoric to class could end up in the US Supreme Court legal analysts suggest.

A federal judge in San Diego is weighing arguments over whether the Poway Unified School District violated Tyler Chase Harper's First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion for keeping him out of class when he wore a shirt on the National Day of Silence in 2004.

The T-shirt was hand-lettered with the words "I Will Not Accept What God Has Condemned" on the front and on the back it read "Homosexuality is Shameful" and "Romans 1:27," a reference to a Bible passage.

When he refused to remove the T-shirt Harper was suspended and subsequently filed a federal lawsuit against the school district. (story)

In April the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a ruling that addressed only the narrow issue of whether the dress code should be unenforced pending the outcome of the lawsuit said that the school could restrict what students wear to prevent disruptions. (story).

In a hearing involving the suit itself lawyers for Harper asked Judge John A. Houston to find the school's ban on negative or offensive speech toward gays is unconstitutional.

They argued that Houston should issue a summary judgment without a trial.

The school district's lawyers are asking for a summary judgment that the school did nothing wrong.

Each side says that whichever way Houston rules there will be an appeal.

Legal experts suggest that as school districts weigh how to protect LGBT students from harassment against conservative students free speech rights to object to homosexuality it is only a matter of time before the Supreme Court becomes involved.

Houston has not indicated when he will make a decision in the case.

©365Gay.com 2006

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