In a year where marriage equality swept the nation, you’d think that a high school student wearing a t-shirt that says “Some People Are Gay, Get Over It” would barely be noticed. In rural Giles County, Tennessee, you’d be wrong.
Back on August 5, the first day of her senior year at Richland High School, Rebecca Young wore that t-shirt. No-one much cared until she ran into the principal, who told her she couldn’t wear it to school again. Not only that, he told her she couldn’t wear anything that showed “support of the LGBT community.” Say what?
Rebecca called the ACLU of Tennessee, which sued the school on her behalf. Predictably, a federal judge issued a preliminary ruling yesterday that the principal’s censorship violates Rebecca’s free speech rights.
This isn’t a landmark legal case; indeed, the judge noted that “the legal ground covering [these] issues is so well-trod that the Court finds itself surprised at the need to journey down this path.” But it’s important nonetheless because it keeps the dialogue on LGBT rights open in the very nooks and crannies of the country where the conversation is most needed.
LGBT people made tremendous strides in court this year because we had made serious progress on moving public opinion about LGBT people in prior years. If our momentum is to continue, and if we are to make further advances in courts and legislatures all across the country, the country’s discussion about LGBT rights needs to continue and indeed to deepen.
With the help of courageous young people like Rebecca Young, who are willing not only to wear the t-shirt but also to sue their school over it, we will make sure that all of America continues this conversation that is crucial to continued progress on LGBT rights.