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Support free speech. Buy tickets to Bel Air, MD, High School’s “Almost, Maine”

Nov 03, 2011 Support free speech. Buy tickets to Bel Air, MD, High School’s “Almost, Maine”

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If schools want to teach students a good civics lesson about the First Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights, they will eliminate censorship. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court again and again has permitted watered-down free speech rights inside public schools, and even outside schools for students. Students’ free speech rights still exist, but in diluted form that we need to undilute.

Homophobia runs too rampant in the world, even in such states as Maryland that seem to have particularly relatively strong support in government for freedom of choice and respect for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered people.

In a victory for both students’ free speech rights and further advances for full societal acceptance of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered, a big congratulations goes to the Maryland American Civil Liberties Union, Baltimore lawyers Chris Brown and Jessica Weber, and, most of all, the students at Bel Air High School in Harford County, Maryland. Within a matter of a day, a November 2 letter ("Letter") to Harford County school and government officials from the ACLU, Mr. Brown and Ms. Weber won a reversal today of the high school’s performance director’s directive to remove a scene of an upcoming school play, Almost, Maine, in which two males express their mutual romantic love. Said scene includes no touching and no showing of skin, whereas other non-excised scenes of the play include heterosexual kissing and heterosexual sexual conduct.

Here is the November 2 protest Letter under the ACLU’s letterhead, and the ACLU’s November 3 press release. Here is today’s statement of Almost, Maine’s playwright, John Cariani. One of the students involved in the play is the niece of Gil Sperlein, who is a fellow member of the First Amendment Lawyers Association. Today, Gil advised: "The ACLU got a call from the county school board attorney this afternoon and the scene is back in.   The students were very excited and they are rehearsing the scene tonight." Here is my brother First Amendment Lawyers Association member Marc Randazza’s take on the story.

This victory is inspirational to those who are asked to take a stand for civil liberties and for those who already are taking that stand. The November 2 protest letter was written with much thought, persuasive passion, and on-point discussion of the relevant facts, governing law, and even the school’s risk of running afoul of the play’s copyright for excising any parts of the script. Undergoing such an endeavor does not always guarantee immediate results without needing to proceed to litigation mode, but the protest letter here worked like a charm.   

If you are convenient to Bel Air, Harford County, Maryland, I encourage you to purchase tickets to the Bel Air High School students’ production of Almost Maine, being performed November 10, 12, and 18 at 7:00 p.m. More information on tickets and the performance is here.    

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