Lambda Helps Student Groups Defend Free Speech and Funding

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On November 20, federal appeals court will hear request that groups be included in lawsuit
November 19, 1998

(CHICAGO, November 19, 1998) -- Three University of Minnesota student organizations, already targeted by a religious conservative lawsuit to de-fund them, first must fight simply to be heard in their own defense in court, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Tuesday.

On Friday, November 20, Lambda, on behalf of the Queer Student Cultural Center, La Raza Student Cultural Center, and University Young Women, will urge the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to reverse a trial court's decision barring the groups from directly participating in the student group funding case, Curry v. University of Minnesota.

"It is vital that our clients be allowed to assert their first amendment rights to speak and associate freely on campus. The objecting students want to close down the University's 'marketplace of ideas' and impose a political litmus test for University support," said Patricia M. Logue, managing attorney of Lambda's Midwest Regional Office. Logue will make oral argument at Friday's hearing.

"Exposure to diverse opinions is the essence of higher learning," said Lambda Staff Attorney Heather C. Sawyer, who is also working on the case. "It is a sad irony that the objecting students are trying to use the First Amendment to stifle opposing points of view," she added.

Conservative students at the University brought the case to prevent the University from using their student fees to fund groups with which they disagree, including Lambda's clients. Their lawsuit seeks to dismantle the University's funding system that fosters diverse student viewpoints and allows all groups to seek money for their activities.

Lambda argues that the three student groups must be allowed to participate in the lawsuit to present their own concerns in court and defend their freedoms of speech and association. The appeals court granted Lambda's request for an expedited review of the trial court decision.

"The University is defending its funding system, but it cannot be expected to represent fully the free speech interests of our clients, who are often at odds with University policies," said Logue.

The Curry case is virtually identical to Southworth v. Grebe, in which a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August that the University of Wisconsin at Madison could not fund certain university groups with student fees of several conservative law students. That case, in which Lambda participated as amicus, will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lambda Cooperating Attorney Eric Rehm is assisting in the case.

WHAT: Oral argument in Curry v. University of Minnesota regarding participation of three student groups whose free speech and funding is threatened by the lawsuit
WHO: Lambda Managing Attorney Patricia Logue argues on behalf of the Queer Student Cultural Center, La Raza Student Cultural Center, and University Young Women
WHERE: Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, 316 North Robert Street, St. Paul, Minnesota
WHEN: Friday, November 20, 8:30 am


(Curry v. University of Minnesota, Case No. 98-3284 MN)

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Contact: Patricia Logue 312-663-4413; Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x230, 888-987-1984 (pager)

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