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Court: Gay student may wear ‘Jesus is not a homophobe’ t-shirt to school

Tuesday, May 22, 2012
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CINCINNATI, Ohio — An openly gay Ohio teen who sued his high school after being threatened with suspension for wearing a t-shirt containing the message “Jesus is not a Homophobe,” will be allowed to wear the shirt to school whenever he chooses.

The clerk’s office for U.S. District Court Judge Michael R. Barrett announced Monday that Maverick Couch, 16, and the Wayne Local School District, have agreed to allowed Maverick to wear the t-shirt without restriction.

Maverick Couch

The agreement also specifies that the school district must pay $20,000 in damages and court costs.

The suit stems from an April 2011 incident at Waynesville High School, when 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 the National Day of Silence.

According to the suit, principal Randy Gebhardt called Maverick into his office and instructed him to turn the T-shirt inside out; Maverick complied.

But over the summer, Maverick further researched his First Amendment rights, and when school resumed in the fall of 2011, he approached the school principal seeking permission to wear the T-shirt. Gebhardt restated that he would be suspended if he wore the shirt.

In January 2012, Lambda Legal contacted Gebhardt, and outlined the legal precedent supporting Maverick’s right to wear the shirt, to which the school district issued this response:

“…the message communicated by the student’s T-shirt is sexual in nature and therefore indecent and inappropriate in a school setting.”

On April 3, 2012, Lambda Legal filed suit, arguing that the school district violated Maverick’s First Amendment rights, and asked the Court to issue a temporary restraining order allowing Maverick to wear the T-shirt while the Court resolved the case.

Rather than oppose the request for a restraining order, the school district agreed to allow Maverick to wear the T-shirt for only one day, on April 20, 2012 while the case proceeds.

Couch said the shirt is a statement of pride and he hopes other students now know they can feel pride, too.

The school district did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment.

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