In Illinois, the words “Be Happy, Not Gay” was printed on the back of T-shirts worn by two high school students and sent shock waves through the student body and the courts. In 2007, two students at a public high school wore the T-shirts to express their two students’ disapproval of the homosexual lifestyle. After the expected uproar, the school district banned any clothing with that slogan. The students then sued the school district in federal court for violating their First Amendment right to free speech.
In its decision, the Court held that there was no “substantial disruption” to the school by the use of the slogan and the words “Be Happy, Not Gay” were not considered “fighting words,” but only mildly negative. With that standard, it will be interesting to see how far students can go in Illinois schools before their insults against gay people or others who they wish to mock (Muslims? Handicapped?) become “fighting words.”