The controversial lawsuit, filed by the father of a Denver Public Schools student, asserts that education officials unconstitutionally privilege pro-LGBTQ symbols.
A Colorado man has filed a federal lawsuit against Denver Public Schools, claiming that education officials violated his children’s First Amendment rights when they refused a request to fly a “straight pride” flag.
The plaintiff, Nathan Feldman, has since said that his children are effectively being barred from exercising their rights to free speech—despite Denver Public Schools either permitting or tolerating the display of gay pride symbols.
Michael Yoder, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney for Feldman, told FOX News that Denver’s so-called equity policies have caused an “overt sexualization of content in elementary schools nationwide.” Yoder further claimed that “Progress Pride” flags, as well as “gender identity books,” encourage students to ask certain questions—questions which he believes foster one-sided conversation about “inappropriate” topics.
“If we had more parents like [Feldman], then these policies would never have been rolled out in the first place, and they’d be teaching kids about math and science,” Yoder said. “They wouldn’t be talking about sexual orientation and homosexuality and having this flamboyant breeding ground for inappropriate content.”
Yoder emphasized that his client never, at any point, asked Denver Public Schools to change its policies or to remove gay pride flags.
“It’s simply the straightforward issue of viewpoint discrimination in a public school,” he said. “You’re expressing a viewpoint on one topic and you’re silencing our viewpoint on the exact same topic.”
“You cannot do that,” Yoder said. “It violates the First Amendment.”
Although Feldman and Yoder’s argument is clearly based in a certain brand of conservative politics, civil rights attorneys have long argued that there is an inherent value in permitting the exercise of even inherently hateful speech.
“People are under the mistaken belief that offensive speech or hate speech is not protected speech,” civil rights attorney David Lane told CBS News. “The U.S. Supreme Court has said the government doesn’t get to choose and decide what is offensive, and what is not offensive.”
“If they’re going to allow any political speech,” he said, “they’re going to have to allow all political speech of a related nature.”
Lane further said that Denver Public Schools—a government-funded district—effectively has no choice but to tolerate “straight pride” flags amidst rainbow flags and other gay pride motifs.
“As much as I may disagree politically with [Feldman’s] position, I think First Amendment case law mandates that this school either eliminate LGBTQ flags and all flags of that nature or they allow him to fly whatever flag he wants,” Lane said. “He is absolutely correct that this is a First Amendment violation.”
However, some local attorneys have taken an opposing stance.
“There isn’t anything particularly about the pride flag that excludes or causes disparate treatment of people who don’t consider themselves part of the queer community,” constitutional law attorney Megan Bishop told 9-News. “They’re already included. They’re not being marginalized by not having a ‘straight pride’ flag up there.”
“I don’t think that they’ll prevail,” she added. ‘I think that they are conflating the difference between private speech and public speech, and that’s ultimately what it’s going to come down to.”