"Sullivan & Cromwell Lawyers Join with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to Protect Student's Freedom of Speech in Support of Equal Rights"Sullivan & Cromwell LLP - May 13, 2008
On May 13, 2008, following a two-day trial, Judge Richard Smoak of the United States District Court, Northern District of Florida, Panama City Division, issued an order ruling that a student's right to wear clothing or items demonstrating support of equal rights for gay and lesbian people is protected by the First Amendment. The student sought help from counsel after she was forbidden from wearing certain clothing and symbols by school officials who claimed the items were disruptive to the academic environment. The Judge stated that the school officials' actions violated the student's rights protected under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and permanently enjoined school officials from "restraining, prohibiting, or suppressing" students from expressing their support for the respect and equal treatment of gay and lesbian people. The court also ordered the school district to inform in writing the student body and school officials throughout the County that students are permitted to express support for the "respect, equal treatment and fair acceptance of" gay and lesbian persons. SULLIVAN & CROMWELL LLP lawyers including John Warden, Garrard Beeney, Maura Miller, Meg Holzer, Thomas Laughlin and Vincent Liu represented the student on a pro bono basis as co-counsel with the ACLU; Megan Bradley served as law clerk on the matter. Pro bono trial support services were provided by DecisionQuest.