Attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom and Massachusetts Family Institute have filed a federal lawsuit against the Town of Middleborough and school officials on behalf of a seventh-grade student who was forbidden from wearing a T-shirt at school that stated, “There are only two genders.”
The lawsuit, L.M. v. Town of Middleborough, involves 12-year-old Liam Morrison, a student at Nichols Middle School in Middleborough, who wore the shirt to express his belief, based on his scientific understanding of biology, that there are only two sexes: male and female. The principal and a school counselor removed Morrison from class and instructed him to take off the shirt. When Morrison declined, they informed him that he could not return to class unless he removed the shirt. As a result, Morrison left school and missed the rest of his classes that day.
In an interview on Fox News, Morrison said, “They completely blocked my ability, or took away my ability, to have a different opinion than they wanted me to have.”
The complaint filed by Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Morrison says that the Constitutionally guarantees “a freedom of thought that includes a freedom to differ,” and that this freedom wouldn’t mean much if we could only differ on topics of little consequence. The Constitution protects this freedom, in part, by “prohibiting the government from adopting and enforcing a set of approved views on these matters in America’s public schools.”
ADF attorneys argue that Middleborough school officials have embraced a particular perspective on sex and gender. They believe that a person’s subjective identity determines their gender rather than their biological sex. School officials have expressed this viewpoint through their speech, and have organized annual school-wide events to promote it. They have also implemented a speech policy that allows students to express viewpoints supporting their view of gender identity while prohibiting students from expressing an opposing view.
The lawsuit maintains that the censorship of Morrison’s message, along with the speech policy and practice on which the censorship is based, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, says that this issue extends beyond a T-shirt, emphasizing that a public school should not prevent a seventh-grader from holding a view that differs from the school’s preferred viewpoint. “Public school officials can’t censor Liam’s speech by forcing him to remove a shirt that states a scientific fact. Doing so is a gross violation of the First Amendment,” Langhofer says.
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, marriage and family, and the sanctity of life.
ADF’s fight for free speech and religious freedom extends well beyond our borders. Its international branch, ADF International, engages at the highest levels of law and governance in 104 countries. ADF International also maintains a permanent presence at the United Nations headquarters in New York, offering legal expertise and support to Member States. The organization’s objective is to ensure that the United Nations respects and upholds the inherent dignity of every individual.
For information about Alliance Defending Freedom’s current and past cases, visit ADF Media.