A high school student won't be allowed to proceed with a lawsuit against his school district for instituting a policy that barred him from expressing his opposition to homosexuality, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 vote, said Boyd County High School student Timothy Morrison failed to show that he was harmed by the policy, which was later changed.
Judge Deborah L. Cook, joined by Judge John R. Adams, also said Morrison didn't show how winning a lawsuit seeking only $1 in damages would rectify his situation. Judge Karen Nelson Moore dissented.
"This case should be over," Cook wrote. "Allowing it to proceed to determine the constitutionality of an abandoned policy — in the hope of awarding the plaintiff a single dollar — vindicates no interest and trivializes the important business of the federal courts."
The ruling is a reversal of a previous ruling that held Morrison should be allowed to pursue the lawsuit.
Morrison, a senior at Boyd County High School, sued the Boyd County school district over a policy that required students to undergo anti-harassment training. He claimed the policy threatened him with punishment for expressing religious beliefs in opposition to homosexuality. Morrison is a professed Christian who believes his religion requires him to speak out against what he sees as behavior that doesn't comport with his understanding of Christian morality.
Morrison was never punished under the policy, which was later changed to exempt speech that would normally be protected off campus.
The school district adopted the policy and established the anti-harassment training as part of a 2004 legal settlement that ended a lawsuit between the school district and a now-defunct gay-rights group that wanted recognition as an extracurricular group.
Members of the Boyd County High School Gay Straight Alliance argued that the school district violated their constitutional rights by refusing to allow them to meet on campus.
Joel Oster, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian law group that represents Morrison, didn't immediately return a telephone message left at his Scottsdale, Ariz., office. Winter Huff, an attorney representing the school district, didn't immediately return a call to her Somerset office.
Sharon McGowan, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which supported the Alliance Defense Fund in arguing that Morrison should be permitted to pursue his case, said the ACLU was disappointed by the decision.