Student sues L.A. City College district over gay-marriage speech
A classroom dispute at Los Angeles City College in the emotional aftermath of Proposition 8 has given rise to a lawsuit testing the balance between 1st Amendment rights and school codes on offensive speech.
Student Jonathan Lopez says his professor called him a “fascist bastard” and refused to let him finish his speech against same-sex marriage during a public speaking class last November, weeks after California voters approved the ban on such unions.
When Lopez tried to find out his mark for the speech, the professor, John Matteson, allegedly told him to “ask God what your grade is,” the suit says.
Lopez also said the teacher threatened to have him expelled when he complained to higher-ups.
In addition to financial damages, the suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, seeks to strike down a sexual harassment code barring students from uttering “offensive” statements.
Jean-Paul Jassy, a 1st Amendment lawyer in Los Angeles, said a number of cases have explored the tension between offensive speech and the expression of religious views. Often, he said, the decision depends on the specifics of the situation.
“Free speech really thrives when people are going back and forth, disagreeing sometimes and sometimes finding things each other says offensive, but there are limits, particularly in a school setting,” Jassy said after reviewing the lawsuit.
Lopez, a Los Angeles resident working toward an associate of arts degree, is described in the suit as a Christian who considers it a religious duty to share his beliefs, particularly with other students. He declined to comment. Matteson could not be reached.
I wonder how the professor would have responded to a Muslim attacking gay marriage?