Constitutional Law

Students Have Right to Wear 'Be Happy, Not Gay' T-Shirt, 7th Circuit Appeals Court Rules


A suburban Chicago school district that promotes tolerance must also allow students to express opposing views, so long as they are not unduly disruptive, a federal appeals court ruled as it upheld the right of high schoolers to wear a “Be Happy, Not Gay” T-shirt.

“A school that permits advocacy of the rights of homosexual students cannot be allowed to stifle criticism of homosexuality,” writes Judge Richard Posner in yesterday’s opinion (PDF) in Zamecnik v. Indian Prairie School District.

“The school argued (and still argues) that banning “Be Happy, Not Gay” was just a matter of protecting the ‘rights’ of the students against whom derogatory comments are directed. But people in our society do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or even their way of life.”

Adding that same-sex marriage is still “highly controversial,” he notes that high school students, who will soon be old enough to vote, should be educated to discuss the issues of the day. Further, he goes on to say, “there is no generalized ‘hurt feelings’ defense to a high school’s violation of the First Amendment rights of its students.”

News coverage:

Daily Herald: “Court upholds District 204 students’ right to wear anti-gay T-shirt”

Student Press Law Center: “Appeals court upholds students’ right to wear ‘Be Happy, Not Gay’ shirts”

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