40 Years Later, Tinker Gives LGBT Students a Voice

Document Date: February 24, 2009
Affiliate: ACLU of Florida

Please note that by playing this clip YouTube and Google will place a long-term cookie on your computer. Please see YouTube's privacy statement on their website and Google's privacy statement on theirs to learn more. To view the ACLU's privacy statement, click here.

The principal at Ponce De Leon High School censored Heather Gillman and other students after they began wearing clothing with rainbows and other symbols of support for gay equality in response to anti-gay harassment at the school. After a trial, a federal judge ruled in Heather's favor, finding that the school violated Heather's First Amendment rights.

Heather and countless other courageous students have followed in the footsteps of Mary Beth Tinker, her brother John, and their friend Christopher Eckhardt, who were suspended from Des Moines public schools in 1965 for wearing black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, the students filed a lawsuit, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which was eventually appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a landmark decision on February 24, 1969, the Court ruled in favor of the students, holding that students don't lose their constitutional rights at the classroom door. The Tinker precedent is still used to determine whether a school's disciplinary actions violate students' First Amendment rights.

Podcast: Mary Beth Tinker discusses what motivated her to stand up for student free speech in 1965 and how she has continued to fight for social justice throughout her life.

To find out what you can do to support LGBT equality in your school or community, visit Get Busy, Get Equal. To stay informed about the most recent developments in LGBT rights, become our fan on Facebook.

Related Links:
> ACLU Marks Anniversary Of Landmark Student Free Speech Decision With New Video
> Mary Beth Tinker: What A Black Armband Means, 40 Years Later
> Gillman v. Holmes County School District - Case Profile

Sign up to be the first to hear about how to take action.