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ACLU Stands Up For CT Teen Wearing Anti-Gay T-Shirt

The problem with civil liberties is that we have to give them to everyone: the ACLU has claimed a Connecticut high school violated a student’s rights to free expression when it told him to remove an anti-gay T-shirt.

On April 20, a day the school designated to raise awareness of LGBT bullying, Wolcott High School junior Seth Groody wore a shirt bearing the image of a rainbow with a slash through it. On the reverse, the shirt bore the message “Excessive Speech Day” beneath a drawing of a male and female figure holding hands.

In a letter to Wolcott principal Joseph Monroe, the ACLU of Connecticut said administrators violated Groody’s First Amendment rights when they forced him to remove the shirt. The civil-rights group asked Monroe to ensure students would be allowed to wear clothes with similar messages in the future.

“We couldn’t agree with Seth less on that issue, but he is absolutely correct about his right to express his opinion,” said ACLU legal director Sandra Staub.

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    • JohnPae

      And this is why I didn’t stop to donate money to the ACLU at the Pride event I was at this past weekend lol.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 5:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Triple S

      Even so, anyone with a brain is going to look at him and thing; “What a fucking idiot!” They might even SAY that to him. We don’t need the law on our side in this case, let stupid people be stupid. It allows them to be ridiculed far more easily.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jordan


      Calling it “Gay” marriage is biphobic/transphobic since many bisexuals of both genders and trans people are partnered to the same gender with other bisexuals/trans people or gays and lesbians.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dennis Velco

      Thanks for your article.
      I posted it to my LGBT Group on LinkedIn and also made a comment there to spur members to read your article and to make comment. I also scooped it at Scoop.It on my LGBT Times news mashup.

      All LGBT+ and community allies…. please come join me and 14,000 of your soon to be great friends on LinkedIn. The member base represents 80% of the world’s countries.

      It is strictly professional office friendly dialog, posting and profiles / profile images. I’ve been told by many that it may well be one of the best run / managed groups on LinkedIn. It even has several LinkedIn top executives as members.

      You can be as out or private as you like and I provide instructions on how to set those preferences (In the Manager’s Choice area).
      EVERY new member is placed automatically and systematically on a temporary 100% moderation to ensure that Right Wingers don’t join and immediately spew forth their garbage. I have the ability to place individuals on 100% moderation at any time and can remove and ban people from the group as necessary. If removed for hate speech I report them to LinkedIn.

      It’s core value is – Visibility can lead to awareness which can lead to equality. Come stand with us and increase our visibility on the globe’s largest professional networking site. Be a professional who just happens to be LGBT – or a welcomed community ally.

      Link to group >> http://www.linkedin.com/groups/LGBT-Gay-GLBT-Professional-Network-63687/about

      Jun 5, 2012 at 6:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Clockwork

      A perpetual mess with an easy answer:

      Schools should have a no slogan on clothing dress code.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 6:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Gus

      The ACLU takes both sides on many issues. Why not? The people on both sides have checkbooks.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 6:48 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • KyCUBE

      @JohnPae: You’ve clearly misunderstood the point of the ACLU this entire time if this is what made you stop donating.

      The ACLU’s purpose is to support EVERYONE’S First Amendment rights, even people with unpopular or distasteful opinions.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 6:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mike

      @JohnPae: Yeah! Who cares about all of the numerous battles they’ve fought on behalf of the LGBT community and our allies since their inception? Screw them!

      “Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.”
      — Salman Rushdie

      Jun 5, 2012 at 7:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mr. Enemabag Jones

      Here’s the little douchebag’s Facebook page:


      Jun 5, 2012 at 7:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Clockwork

      @Mr. Enemabag Jones:
      >Here’s the little douchebag’s Facebook page:

      So what do you want people to do? Cyberbully the kid?

      Jun 5, 2012 at 7:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • James

      I agree with the ACLU. The guy might as well have been wearing an “I am a douche bag” t shirt – but at least there is no doubt as to his I.Q.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 7:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Hyhybt

      I take issue with the article’s first sentence. It’s not a problem.

      Let him make a fool of himself all he wants.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 7:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ed

      The kid may be a dumbass for wearing that shirt but he has a right to wear whatever he wants. Also to the guy who posted the kids facebook if anything you’re more of a douche than him.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 8:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JON

      It’s the kid’s way of proudly wearing his ignorance for everyone to see!

      Don’t be be angry with him because he rides the short bus to school.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 8:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • anon

      Hate speech is not free speech. In this instance, the message was not hateful, so it’s okay.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 8:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mr. Enemabag Jones



      Jun 5, 2012 at 8:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • timncguy

      Queerty, why in the world would you run a photo of a pro-gay t-shirt to accompany an article about an anti-gay t-shirt?????

      Jun 5, 2012 at 9:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Allan S

      I would like to think I’m surprised by peoples responses but I’m not. You cannot champion equality using your rights to free speech and then condemn others for using the same right to express ignorance. Regardless of the message, people are entitled to say what they want. Despite the fact that the kind is spreading hate I fully support his right to do it. You don’t change a person by taking away their rights, you change them by educating them.

      And Mr. Enemabag Jones, I hope that’s a sick joke.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 9:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mr. Enemabag Jones

      @Allan S:

      And Mr. Enemabag Jones, I hope that’s a sick joke.

      No, it’s not. Maybe getting a taste of bullying will make this kid understand what the Day of Silence is about.

      But I seriously doubt this boy knows how to remain silent. I’d bet his t-shirt was just a visual of his usual verbal bullying.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 10:15 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Steve

      @JON: Good gay god, how I hate “short bus” references, calling our opponents “retarded” or implying the same is hateful to those wonderful souls who everyday put up with more bullshit than any other group and give absolutely none in return.

      lumping this kid, Seth, in with the fantastic children and adults who make up the community you use as a slight, is just plain wrong.

      By doing so you would seem to imply that those loving people hate us the same as the bigots do.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 10:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bailey

      I think the lady doth protest too much.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 10:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Clockwork

      @Mr. Enemabag Jones:

      I appreciate your honesty.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 10:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brandon

      Enema-And what’s cyberstalking/cyberbullying the kid going to do? It would make us LGBT people no better than the people who hate us.

      Jun 5, 2012 at 11:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JayKay

      The “day of silence” is an idiotic idea in the first place, the shirt doesn’t sound all that bad, and if all schools would simply require uniforms you wouldn’t have these kinds of problems.

      Jun 6, 2012 at 1:31 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JayUVA

      Free speech is a two-way street. The opinion being expressed is not the issue; rather, the *right to express* an opinion is the issue. The ACLU is a terriffic organization and we all should appreciate their work.

      George Carlin said it well:


      Jun 6, 2012 at 1:41 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Brianne

      Honestly while I do understand it is his right to express his freedom of speech this is a school, most likely with a dress code. He most likely would not have been able to wear that t-shirt on any other day either. When I was in high school we had lines that we were not allowed to cross including wearing shirts that wore what could be an offensive message to others. Some schools ban gay friendly shirts and anti gay shirts it is not some new phenomenon. The ACLU should have taken a look at the schools dress code before they commented on anything. In school you are not just allowed to say, do, and wear whatever you want.

      Jun 6, 2012 at 2:14 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Dr. Dick

      What if he were wearing a shirt that said “The Holocaust never happened”? Just curious…

      Jun 6, 2012 at 3:37 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Pat Duffy

      @Dr. Dick: Then he deserves the Free Speech Rights those that disagree with him Speaking Up.
      Free Speech doesn’t mean you get to say whatever you want and not be Called on it….Something Duesenbergies never get.

      Jun 6, 2012 at 7:03 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chris

      @Jordan: Unbelievable! All you have to say is that the phrase gay marriage is transphobic? Next time you complain about a lack of support from the gay community, look back at this idiotic post.

      Jun 6, 2012 at 8:09 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Carl

      @JohnPae: So, because they support the equal application of the law to everyone, even those who hold differing opinions, you won’t support them? In doing so, you have become as bad as those who seek to suppress our rights. We cannot demand equality with one hand, whilst seeking to restrict the rights of others with the other. The law must be applied equally and as distasteful, ignorant and narrow-minded as the shirt is, he has the right to wear it. It’s good the ACLU stood up here, it’s shows that they support EQUAL rights, not gay rights.

      Jun 6, 2012 at 9:54 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Carl

      @Jordan: Gay marriage is a non-term anyway, in my opinion. Not necessarily bi or trams phobic, but definitely diversive. It makes I sound like we want something new, which we don’t. The same is tru of same-sex marriage. I rarely use either term, for the reason just stated. Those terms fuel the fires of our opponents and are, IMO, one of the biggest threats. We need to abolish both terms ASAP and use Marriage Equality instead. This has several benefits 1) it is inclusive 2) it clearly indicates the fight is for equality, not something new 3) it is less sensational to the ‘every man’ 4) it helps shoot down the argument we wants “special rights”

      Jun 6, 2012 at 10:01 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tina T.

      @Brianne: A local school dress code doesn’t override the United States Constitution.

      Jun 6, 2012 at 10:38 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Well

      There is a difference between defending tolerant speech and defending hate speech or prejudice speech in a school. Think of the effect this T-shirt would have had on a gay (perhaps bullied) student in his class. I imagine messages like that can contribute to the suicide of a vulnerable gay child. A school should of course have the right to prohibit speech hostile to a part of the student body. Should schools next allow those T-shirts calling girls dumb bitches? What about racist T-shirts? It is the duty of the school to PROTECT children against these kinds of attacks. The ACLU’s defense here is idiotic and I won’t contribute to them any more.

      Jun 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kamuurie

      Free Speech Rights > Gay interests. Why? Because free speech rights lead to victories FOR gay interests in the long term. The ACLU is right on the money.

      Jun 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • randalaw

      Would the ACLU go to bat for someone sporting a T-shirt with a cross or a Star of David with a slash through it? Or any other symbol of a specific group of people? On the surface, this seems like protection of free speech, which I totally support. But this seems to go a bit beyond a simple interpretation of free speech.

      Jun 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Well

      There is a difference between defending tolerant speech and defending hate speech or prejudiced speech in a school. Think of the effect this T-shirt would have had on a gay (perhaps bullied) student in his class. I imagine messages like that can contribute to the suicide of a vulnerable gay child. A school should of course have the right to prohibit speech hostile to a part of the student body. Should schools next allow those plentiful T-shirts derogatory to women? What about racist T-shirts? It is the duty of the school to PROTECT the other children against a hostile environment created by some hateful bully. The ACLU’s defense here is idiotic and I won’t contribute to them any more.

      Jun 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Hyhybt

      @JayKay: Why do you consider it a problem that students can mostly wear whatever they want?

      Jun 6, 2012 at 3:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rood

      Speech is one thing; actions are another. In California the ACLU recently defended the right of parents to mutilate the genitals of their children. That’s why I’m no longer a member. They successfully took the right to genital integrity from the individual and gave it to someone else, entirely.

      Jun 6, 2012 at 4:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B

      No. 33 · randalaw · asked, “Would the ACLU go to bat for someone sporting a T-shirt with a cross or a Star of David with a slash through it?”

      It is likely the ACLU would – in one famous case, the ACLU supported the right of a Nazi group to hold a parade or march though Skokie Illinois, a town whose residents included quite a few Holocaust survivors or individuals related to Holocaust victims. While the courts ruled in the Nazi’s favor, it seems the Nazis never showed up after all. Not sure why. I’m tempted to guess that it dawned on them that they wouldn’t be able to buy fresh bagels for breakfast without patronizing a Jewish-owned business, but that might be giving these neo-Nazis more credit than they deserve in terms of intelligence.

      See http://www.kansaspress.ku.edu/strwhe.html and https://www.aclu.org/aclu-history

      Jun 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rockin Dad

      @Jordan: right. pointless.

      Jun 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mike


      And what has the ACLU done for you lately? Oh, yeah:

      U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones today ruled the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional in the Edith Windsor case, brought by the ACLU.


      Jun 6, 2012 at 10:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JohnPae

      @KyCUBE: Jesus, okay let me elaborate since I didn’t think 4 people would jump down my throat over a comment. They were standing in the street canvassing saying “Support Gay Rights” and although I am well aware that they do support Gay rights and of what they’ve done for the community I feel that summarizing everything the organization does into that one statement at a Pride event just to pander to people’s pockets is unethical. That was my issue and that’s all I have to say on the matter.

      Jun 7, 2012 at 6:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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