The anti-harassment legislation is frequently supported by the ACLU and its state affiliates, partly because ACLU officials also support the goal of government-supported diversity. In contrast, the libertarian Foundation for Individual Rights In Education, or FIRE, opposes anti-harassment bills as threats to free-speech. On Feb. 15, its website presented arguments against a pending bullying-related bill in Congress, dubbed the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act. The draft act “is redundant, it replaces the clear definition of harassment with a vague, speech-restrictive definition that conflicts with Supreme Court precedent, and it treats adult college students like children who need special laws,” said FIRE’s statement.
This month, Higgins’ side won an expensive free-speech victory when a federal appeals court in Chicago upheld a token award of $25 dollars each to two students who were punished by school officials in Naperville, Ill., for wearing unapproved t-shirts following a school event that was intended to promote acceptance of homosexuality. The “Day of Silence” event at the school was organized by GLSEN. The two students’ shirts carried the message “Be Happy, Not Gay,” and were worn on a day declared to be a “Day of Truth,” which was organized by a national conservative group that opposes GLSEN’s goals.
“[A] school that permits advocacy of the rights of homosexual students cannot be allowed to stifle criticism of homosexuality,” said the appeal court’s decision, authored by Judge Richard Posner. “The school argued (and still argues) that banning ‘Be Happy, Not Gay’ was just a matter of protecting the ‘rights’ of the students against whom derogatory comments are directed. But people in our society do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or even their way of life,” said the ruling.