Ugliness in my home state

ACLU Warns Arkansas School to Stop Persecuting Gay Student:

JACKSONVILLE, AR -- The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging officials at Jacksonville Junior High School over repeated punishment of a 14-year-old student for being openly gay. In a letter to school officials sent today, the ACLU demanded that the school stop violating the student's rights and remove all unconstitutional disciplinary actions taken against him from his record by March 21 or face legal action.

In its letter, the ACLU said that school officials "outed" the gay student, Thomas McLaughlin, to his parents against his wishes and have since told him he must not discuss being gay while at school, forced him to read from the Bible and disciplined him for being open about his sexual orientation.



Update from my friends at the ACLU. You can send supportive emails to Thomas via

unfortunately, the aclu may be making an empty threat. there is no federal law against anti-gay discrimination, and i highly doubt that arkansas has a state law to cover such conduct. (i'm not sure how the aclu's constitutional theory would work. i'm guessing they would argue equal protection, but the supreme court's equal pro. precedents are pretty bad when it comes to gay issues)

the letter may get the school to back down, just to avoid the bad press. but, if they are run by real bigots, there may not be anything the aclu can do to stop them. and in the current judicial climate, a lawsuit by the aclu could do more harm than good by producing a decision that would function as a bad precedent

(on the other hand, i can't really blame the organization for trying to take legal action. there is always the hope that a case like this would give the courts a chance to reverse some of their earlier anti-gay decisions)

No, Arkansas of course has no law regarding anti-gay discrimination or hate crimes. However, Lambda won a case regarding the anti-gay harassment (and physical violence) of a student in the Fayetteville school system. I have talked with Carolyn Wagner, the student's mother.

Lambda also succeeded in getting the state's sodomy law struck down last year:

The equal protection argument won in Romer v. Evans, though, and according to the letter to the superintendent that's only one of several claims with this kid - there were also violations of his First Amendment rights, violations of privacy (which has a pretty good precedent in another case), and that whole school-officials-making-him-read-the-Bible thing is generall frowned upon.

in romer v. evans its a little different: the theory was that by passing a state law which outlawed a type of local anti-discrimination ordinance, the state was essentially disenfranchising voters in local elections. so the equal protection argument was essentially that state law deprived local voters of the right to vote on certain issues. the legal theory wasn't about gay rights per se, but rather local voting rights

privacy and the first amendment arguments (for being forced to read the bible) i can see working. at least they should work. i just don't have much confidence in the judiciary these days.

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Published on March 14, 2003 5:20 PM.

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