Michael Barth, a senior at Gordon-Rushville High School in Nebraska, recently won a statewide speech competition with his collection of poetry about gender stereotypes.
Michael and the eight other winners were meant to present their speeches in a “Best of the Best” showcase on Nebraska Educational Television, a PBS affiliate, but the Nebraska School Activities Association, a nonprofit organization of public and private high schools, has told Barth they will not allow his speech to air because of its “controversial” nature.
“They declined it because the executive director of the NSAA believes that it was advocating transgender rights," Barth told the Huffington Post Wednesday.
"My poetry program is not advocating gay rights or straight rights or transgender rights or anything like that. It's about love and accepting each other,” Barth added.
An excerpt from Barth's speech:
Stereotypes do nothing but discourage individuality, and arbitrarily define masculinity and femininity. I am not here to talk about what it means to be gay or what it means to be straight. I am here to talk about what it means to ignore society’s expectations of yourself and be your own individual person
The NSAA asked Barth to change his speech, to remove any connotations about gender or homosexuality, and he refused.
The director of the NSA told the Journal Star, “I don’t want the speech platform to be seen as pushing an individualized agenda.”
Amy Miller, legal director of the ACLU of Nebraska, in a statement promising legal action against the NSAA over the violation of Barth’s constitutional right to free speech if he is not allowed to present his speech without censorship, said, "Claiming that this particular speech advances a political agenda is particularly troubling. The lives of gay and transgender people should be able to be discussed without being labeled as a political agenda.”
A MoveOn.org petition to support Barth has over 1,000 signatures so far.
[Huffington Post] [Journal Star] [ACLU Nebraska] [Barth's speech]