Originally published on Advocate.com December 09 2003 1:00 AM ET
A federal judge has ruled that Ann Arbor public schools violated a former student's constitutional rights when she wasn't allowed to express her antigay Catholic views in a panel discussion about gays and religion. U.S. district judge Gerald Rosen said in a 70-page opinion issued Friday that school officials violated her right to free speech and equal protection. He also said officials violated the establishment clause when they allowed a panel of clergy to present only one religious viewpoint on homosexuality. Rosen ordered the school district to pay damages, attorney fees, and costs to the Thomas More Law Center, the Ann Arbor firm that represented Elizabeth Hansen. Robert Muise, the center attorney who argued the case, said the costs and fees could reach $100,000. Liz Margolis, Ann Arbor public schools spokeswoman, said district officials wouldn't immediately comment on Rosen's opinion because they hadn't read it.
Rosen was highly critical of school officials' actions during Diversity Week in March 2002. That year a panel on homosexuality and religion included two Episcopal priests, a Presbyterian minister, a Presbyterian deacon, a rabbi, and a pastor of the United Church of Christ. All expressed positive views of homosexuality. Hansen wanted to be a part of the panel to express an opposing view, but she was denied. She filed suit in July 2002. Hansen was allowed to give a speech at a separate assembly. She claimed in the lawsuit that her speech was censored to exclude a passage that said, in part, that she could not "accept religious and sexual ideas or actions that are wrong." The district's attorney argued that the speech was edited because the school wanted to promote "student tolerance and acceptance of minority points of view."