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Student Speech

Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit may or may not write the most well-reasoned opinion in any given case, but it is a pretty sure bet that, among competing opinions, his will be the most eloquent.

But in a case issued April 23, the more reserved Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner bests him in both regards.

The issue in the case is whether a high school student should be awarded a preliminary injunction, barring his suburban Chicago school from prohibiting him from wearing a T-shirt that reads, “Be Happy, Not Gay” on April 28.

Apparently, April 28 is the “Day of Truth,” timed to come one day after the “Day of Silence,” during which people refuse to speak in protest against harassment of homosexuals.

Both Posner’s opinion for the court, and Rovner’s concurring opinion, correctly conclude the injunction must issue, but the similarities end there.

While Posner cannot refrain from littering his opinion with statements such as, “The contributions that kids can make the marketplace in ideas and opinions is modest…” and “one may doubt just how close debate by high-school students on sexual preferences really is to the heart of the First Amendment.”

Rovner rightly takes him to task for such comments: “Youths are often the vanguard of social change. … The young adults to whom the majority refers as ‘kids’ and ‘children’ are either already eligible, or a few short years away from being eligible to vote, to contract, to marry, to serve in the military, and to be tried as
adults in criminal prosecutions. To treat them as children in need of protection from controversy, to blithely dismiss their views as less valuable than those of adults, is contrary to the values of the First Amendment.”

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