WOODBURY (AP) -- A Woodbury High School student wore his "Straight Pride" T-shirt to school Friday, a day after a judge ruled the principal's ban on the message was probably unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank issued a preliminary injunction Thursday allowing Elliott Chambers, 16, to wear the shirt to school. He said there was a "strong likelihood" that Principal Dana Babbitt's ban on the shirt was unconstitutional on free-speech grounds.
Chambers' shirt says "Straight Pride" on the front and displays a man and a woman holding hands on the back. He wore a T-shirt with the message because of the warm weather Friday, although it was a "Straight Pride" sweat shirt he wore to school in January that ignited the dispute.
After getting home from school Friday, the youth said the reaction among his classmates was mostly positive. He said a friend wore an identical shirt, and they kept encouraging each other through the day.
"The same kids from before the whole thing happened who thought the shirt was cool thought the shirt was cool again," Chambers said. "A small percentage would scowl at me in the hallway and show their disgust, but overall it wasn't a bad day."
The Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association Center for Law and Policy filed a lawsuit in St. Paul last month on behalf of Chambers, a Christian who believes homosexuality is immoral and unhealthy. He said he started wearing the message partly to protest the school's designation of some rooms as "safe zones" for gay and lesbian students.
"This is a tremendous victory for student free speech and a small step toward exposing the hypocrisy of the 'tolerance agenda,"' said Stephen M. Crampton, chief counsel for the law center. "When the politically correct invoke 'tolerance' they usually mean tolerance only for those promoting deviant and socially destructive behaviors. The court recognized that true tolerance means tolerance of all, and not only a select few."
School officials said Friday they accept the court's decision.
Dan Hoke, superintendent of the South Washington County School District, said he was pleased that Frank said the school should be commended for its efforts to create an atmosphere of tolerance and respect for diversity among its students.
The judge said the sentiment behind the "Straight Pride" message appeared to be one of intolerance to homosexuality. But he ruled there was insufficient evidence that it would cause a substantial disruption of school activities.
Hoke noted that the judge indicated that school officials could ban such shirts if circumstances change enough so that they have a reasonable belief that allowing it would lead to substantial trouble.
Chambers said he doesn't hate homosexuals and opposes violence against them, but doesn't believe God approves of their lifestyle. He said he considers the shirts to be a positive affirmation of heterosexuality rather than a slam on gays and lesbians. He said he hopes to wear his shirt to class at least once more before school lets out for the summer.
Chambers may be starting something of a trend, said his mother, Lana Chambers.
"Several of his friends have ordered the shirt and are anxiously awaiting the day when they can wear theirs, too," she said.
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