A judge rejected a gay teenager's bid to campaign for student body president with posters billing himself as the "Queer Guy for Hunt High." Jarred Gamwell had enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union after the principal of James B. Hunt High School in Wilson, N.C., removed the posters last week. Without comment, Wilson County superior court judge Dwight Cranford denied on Tuesday the ACLU's request for an order forcing administrators to allow Gamwell to use posters with gay references, including one that read "Gay Guys Know Everything!" School officials said the decision had nothing to do with Gamwell's homosexuality but was aimed at controlling speech that could be disruptive to the learning atmosphere. Robert E. Kendall Jr., a spokesman for Wilson County schools, said the ruling "reaffirms a principal's responsibility and authority to manage school-related activities."
The ACLU expressed disappointment with the ruling. "We think the judge was wrong to deny this motion--the two posters were constitutionally protected political speech, they weren't disruptive, and they certainly weren't illegal," ACLU attorney Seth Jaffe said. The uproar had an upside for Gamwell, a 17-year-old honor student who said publicity about his free-speech fight made him an instant celebrity and garnered him some newfound support among his peers before Wednesday's election. "People were screaming my name," he said. "It was crazy. People who don't normally even talk to me have been very supportive."