Monday, October 31, 2005

New Supreme Court nominee issued anti-gay court ruling regarding schools and harassment of LGBT youth

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Bush's new Supreme Court pick struck down gay protection Alito ruled for Christian conservatives suing Pa. school district By CHRIS CRAIN | Oct 31, 10:12 AM President Bush's new pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, announced this morning, wrote an opinion on behalf of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 2000 striking down the "anti-harassment" policy adopted by a school district in State College, Pa., home to Penn State University. The policy banned harassment on the basis of "actual or perceived race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other personal characteristics." Harassment on the basis of sexual orientation extended to "negative name-calling and degrading behavior." It was challenged by a member of the school board, whose two children attended schools there, who said their Christian faith would subject them to punishment under the policy. "They believe, and their religion teaches, that homosexuality is a sin," the plaintiffs alleged in the lawsuit. "[They] further believe that they have a right to speak out about the sinful nature and harmful effects of homosexuality." A federal judge ruled against the lawsuit, deciding that the school district's harassment policy went no further than federal laws against harassment, which is not protected free speech under the First Amendment. A three-judge panel of the Third Circuit disagreed, and Alito wrote on their behalf that the schools' policy went much further than federal law, both in the categories that were protected and the type of conduct was prohibited. Bush's Supreme Court pick acknowledged that preventing discrimination in schools is a legitimate and compelling government interest, but concluded that the anti-harassment policy was too broad, blocking even pure speech that happens to "offend" another student. "Insofar as the policy attempt to prevent students from making negative comments about each others' 'appearance,' 'clothing,' and 'social skills,' it may be brave, futile or merely silly," Alito wrote, quoting the harassment policy. "But attempting to proscribe negative comments about 'values,' as that term is commonly used today, is something else altogether." Alito never touched on the plaintiffs' particular desire to discuss in school their religious teachings against homosexuality, but he did note that the policy specifically listed as harassment several types of speech that he considered "core" speech protected by the First Amendment, including: "'negative' or 'derogatory' speech about such contentious issues as 'racial customs,' 'religious tradition,' 'language,' 'sexual orientation,' and 'values.' Such speech," he wrote, "when it does not pose a realistic threat of substantial disruption, is within a student's First Amendment rights." Original Source: click here

3 Comments:

I'm missing the anti-gay part of this... could you clarify?
In this particular case Judge Alito ruled against a clause which would have protected students based upon sexual orientation. The lawsuit was brought by a group of more conservative-minded Christians who thought that the policy would prevent them from telling "the truth" about homosexuality. Basically, Judge Alito agreed with a group of people who did not want gays to be protected because it would interfere with their rights to preach at them and subject them to moral attacks based on their sexual orientation.

In another case I found out about today though, and I must give Judge Alito this, he ruled in favor of a straight youth who was tormented because he was perceived as being gay and ruled that the school did not go far enough in protecting him. (Winston-Salem Journal, November 1, 2005, 'Alito's big legal record sugggests his views' Front page & p. A6)

His two rulings on this matter seem very contradictory to me, however.
I don't see the first case as a matter of being against homsexuals, but rather FOR free speech. If my religion said that taking drugs is good, and I sent my kids to school repeating that, there's not a damn thing the state can do about it, and no one would question their rights. When it's a gay issue, suddenly everything is different?

I think people need to stop jumping to conclusions and look at his entire career, as you were hinting at, and think, "maybe he's just trying to be fair".