Lambda Legal Celebrates National Day of Silence: Maverick Couch Wears "Jesus Is Not a Homophobe" T-Shirt
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(Chicago, IL, April 20, 2012)— Today in celebration of GLSEN’s National Day of Silence, Lambda Legal issued the following statement from Christopher Clark, Senior Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. On April 3, Clark filed suit on behalf of Maverick Couch, a high school junior who was threatened with suspension if he wore a T-shirt to school bearing the slogan, “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe.”
“We’re glad that Maverick is able to wear his T-shirt today,” said Christopher Clark. “However, we’ll continue to work on his behalf so that he’s able to express who he is and what he believes in on any day of the year. Maverick is just one of countless young people across the country who wish to attend school without fear of harassment and bullying—Lambda Legal will support them 365 days a year.”
Last April, Maverick wore a T-shirt with a rainbow Ichthys, or “sign of the fish,” and a slogan that says “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe” in observation of GLSEN’s National Day of Silence. The school principal for Waynesville High School in Waynesville, Ohio, Mr. Randy Gebhardt, called Maverick into his office and instructed him to turn the T-shirt inside out or face disciplinary action; Maverick complied. When school resumed in the fall of 2011, he approached the school principal seeking permission to wear the T-shirt. Mr. Gebhardt restated that he would be suspended if he wore the shirt.
In January 2012, Lambda Legal sent a letter to Mr. Gebhardt outlining the legal precedent supporting Maverick’s right to wear the shirt, to which the school district issued the response, “…the message communicated by the student’s T-shirt is sexual in nature and therefore indecent and inappropriate in a school setting.”
On Tuesday, April 3, 2012, Lambda Legal filed suit, arguing that the Waynesville School District violated the First Amendment and well settled legal precedent supporting students’ free speech. The suit also asked the Court to issue an immediate temporary restraining order allowing Maverick to wear the T-shirt while the Court resolved the First Amendment issues. Rather than oppose the request for a restraining order, the school district agreed to allow Maverick to wear the T-shirt on April 20 while the case proceeds.
The National Day of Silence is an annual event sponsored by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to raise awareness of LGBT issues in schools.
Read Lambda Legal's National Day of Silence FAQ.
Christopher Clark, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Midwest Regional Office is handling the case for Lambda Legal. He is joined by Lisa T. Meeks with Newman & Meeks based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.