Ruling: Gay-straight alliances can meet in Okeechobee

07/30/08 Mitch E. Perry
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A federaljJudge has ruled that a school district in rural Florida must allow a Gay-Straight Alliance to meet on campus and must provide for the well-being of gay and straight students. The ruling caps a nearly two-year-long legal battle over First Amendment rights.

Judge K. Michael Moore wrote in his ruling last night that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."

The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Okeechobee High School senior Yasmin Gonzalez in 2006 after the school principal said the club could not meet on campus.

In his ruling, Moore said the club, which promotes dialogue and tolerance, does not interfere with abstinence-only education, as the principal previously argued.

The Federal Equal Access Act says if one club is allowed to meet on campus, all clubs should receive the same privileges.

The school district referred calls to their attorney who did not immediately comment.

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