National LGBT Briefs: A Tee, a Test and Testy Meeting

Student's rights protected in Ohio, while panel recommends HIV test and American Family Association takes on Home Depot


Ohio Teen Wins Fight for Anti-Homophobia Tee

The question of whether Jesus may have been a homophobe might be a question for the ages. Judge Michael R. Barrett of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, has decided, however, that high school student Maverick Couch may wear his ”Jesus is not a homophobe” T-shirt to school.

Lamdba Legal announced its client’s win May 21, which included $20,000 for damages and attorneys’ fees. In 2011, when Couch wore the shirt to mark the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network’s Day of Silence, his Waynesville, Ohio, principal told him to turn it inside out. The school district supported that decision, deeming the shirt ”sexual in nature” and ”indecent and inappropriate.”

Lambda Legal’s announcement included a quote from Couch: ”The shirt is a statement of pride, and I hope other students like me know that they can be proud, too.”

Christopher Clark, Lambda’s senior staff attorney, said, ”We’ve very happy for Maverick and all LGBT students in Ohio. If school officials had any doubt before, it’s clear now: First Amendment rights apply to all students on every day of the year, and efforts to silence LGBT youth will not go unchallenged.”

Orasure Over-the-Counter HIV Test Recommended 

OraSure Technologies announced May 15 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Blood Products Advisory Committee has given a positive recommendation to the FDA for the company’s OraQuick In-Home HIV Test.

”There was broad support expressed by the HIV community at today’s meeting and we look forward to continuing our work with them in the fight against HIV,” Douglas A. Michels, OraSure’s president and CEO, said in the company’s announcement. ”We believe the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test will make a valuable contribution in this fight.”

Poz magazine reported from the Gaithersburg, Md., meeting, noting that OraSure would expect to sell the saliva-swab test for less than $60, and that primary concerns centered on data showing an increase in ”false negatives” with the over-the-counter test, versus OraSure’s swab tests administered by professionals.

”We are concerned by the data indicating that when administered by consumers the accuracy of the rapid HIV tests drops to 93 percent as compared to 99 percent when conducted by professionals,” Kimberly Crump testified, according to Poz. Crump is a policy officer at the HIV Medicine Association. ”We still believe the rapid test holds great promise as a self-directed tool for individuals to learn their HIV status. We also urge continued research and education in heavily impacted areas and with the low-income and minority populations disproportionately affected by HIV infection to determine how the instructions and accompanying support materials can raise the assurance of the test results closer to the level obtained by professionals.”

AFA Joins Home Depot Shareholders Meeting

The anti-LGBT American Family Association on May 17 delivered about 250,000 additional petition signatures to the Home Depot shareholders meeting in Atlanta. Randy Sharp, an AFA spokesperson, addressed Home Depot Chairman Frank Blake at the meeting.

”I’m here on behalf of Home Depot shareholders as to the reason that 719,037 people have signed a pledge to no longer do business with the Home Depot,” Sharp says, in part, in a recording of the meeting posted by the AFA. ”This is not an insignificant number. … There’s a cause for us to be concerned.”

Sharp goes on to say that the boycott is not a challenge to Home Depot’s commitment to diversity, but to the company’s ”social and political activism on American streets,” particularly with regard to marriage equality. Home Depot has, for example, participated in Atlanta Pride.

Blake responded, according to the AFA recording, by reaffirming Home Depot’s commitment to diversity. The recording ends shortly afterward with an unidentified attendee: ”As a married lesbian from Massachusetts, I would like to extend my appreciation for those comments. Thank you.”

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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