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Student asks appeals court to uphold right to wear 'There are only two genders' shirt

ADF attorneys, middle-school boy available for media interviews following hearing Thursday
Liam Morrison wearing a shirt that says 'There are only censored genders'

WHO: Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and client

WHAT: Available for media interviews following oral arguments in L.M. v. Town of Middleborough

WHEN: Immediately following hearing, which begins at 9:30 a.m. EST, Thursday, Feb. 8

WHERE: U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse, 1 Courthouse Way, Boston, or listen to the audio livestream of the hearing. To schedule an interview, contact ADF Media Relations Specialist Hayden Sledge at (205) 767-4705.

BOSTON – Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys will be available for media interviews at a press conference following oral arguments Thursday at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in L.M. v. Town of Middleborough. In the case, ADF attorneys are representing a middle-school student who was forbidden by his school from wearing a T-shirt to school that said, “There are only two genders” and then was changed to say, “There are [censored] genders.” The student will join ADF attorneys at Thursday’s press conference.

ADF attorneys are asking the court to rule that Nichols Middle School in Middleborough violated the First Amendment when it stopped the student from wearing his shirts to school. They are also asking the court to stop the school from enforcing its unconstitutional dress code policy that discriminates against students based on the viewpoint they express.

“Students don’t lose their free speech rights the moment they walk into a school building,” said ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of U.S. Litigation David Cortman, who will be arguing before the court. “This case isn’t about T-shirts; it’s about a public school telling a middle-schooler that he isn’t allowed to express a view that differs from their own. The school actively promotes its view about gender through posters and ‘Pride’ events. And it encourages other students to wear T-shirts expressing messages about gender. At the end of last school year, another student wore a shirt that said, ‘He she they, it’s all okay.’ That was allowed, even though just a few weeks before they punished L.M. for his ‘There are only two genders’ shirt simply because it did not align with their preferred beliefs. We are urging the court to rule that free speech belongs to all, not some.”

Attorneys with ADF and Massachusetts Family Institute filed the lawsuit in May of last year on behalf of the student after he wore the “There are only two genders” T-shirt to school to peacefully share his belief, informed by his scientific understanding of biology—that there are only two sexes, male and female—and that a person’s gender—their status as a boy or girl, woman or man—is inextricably tied to biological sex. The principal of the school, along with a school counselor, pulled the student out of class and ordered him to remove his shirt. After he politely declined, school officials said that he must remove the shirt to return to class. As a result, the student left school and missed the rest of his classes that day.

Once school officials censored his original message, the student chose to wear an altered shirt that read, “There are [censored] genders” to protest the fact that only some messages about gender are allowed. As soon as he arrived at school, his teacher told him to go to the principal’s office, where he was told that he could not wear that shirt either.

ADF attorneys appealed to the 1st Circuit in September and received broad support from 16 states and multiple advocacy groups in favor of the student’s freedom of speech.

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to protecting First Amendment and related freedoms for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.

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David Cortman
David A. Cortman
Senior Counsel, Vice President of U.S. Litigation
David A. Cortman serves as senior counsel and vice president of U.S. litigation with Alliance Defending Freedom.