Maverick Couch, an openly gay Ohio high school student is suing his school district to be able to wear a t-shirt with a rainbow filled Ichthys (the catholic fish) and the statement Jesus is not a homophobe. Maverick had worn the shirt before last April in support of the National Day of Silence, an event where students remain silent for a day to bring attention to bullying of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender in schools. Maverick was told by the school that he could not wear the shirt because it was disruptive:
On April 20, 2011, Couch was first summoned to Gebhardt’s office in the middle of fifth period. At his school, which lacks any organization devoted to the gay community, he is one of few openly gay students. So, he alone was marking the day, wearing the T-shirt and a “No Hate” message written on his cheek in marker. He carried a white board so he could write messages (in lieu of talking) to communicate with teachers and classmates.
All day long, Couch was pleased and surprised by how supportive his classmates and teachers were, he said. “Some people I don’t even talk to on a daily basis came up to me and said, ‘It’s really cool you’re wearing that shirt,'” Couch told The Huffington Post. “I did get a couple of negative comments like, ‘You’re a faggot,’ but that happens. The support is what mattered.”
But when he got to Gebhardt’s office, Couch felt that support drip away. Gebhardt said he would have to remove the shirt because it “had to do with religion” and “religion and state have to be separate,” Couch recalled. Gebhardt later told Couch’s mother Tonya that the T-shirt was “disrupting the educational process,” according to the lawsuit.
Now, an update on this case from The Huffington Post:
In a status conference with Judge Barrett of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio, the Wayne Local School District has agreed to permit Maverick Couch to wear his T-shirt bearing the slogan “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe” on one day only, GLSEN’s National Day of Silence, while the case proceeds.
Why is it improtant that Maverick be able to wear his shirt? Daniel Losen of the University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project sums it up best:
By ordering Couch to remove the shirt, his school is implicitly saying that bullying is allowed…”I think the message to the students is indirectly, that homophobia is okay.”