The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a Massachusetts middle school’s decision to ask a student to remove his “There are only two genders” T-shirt last year. 

The federal appeals court issued its decision on Sunday, denying eighth grader Liam Morrison’s appeal that Nichols Middle School in Middleborough violated his First Amendment rights in March 2023. The ruling upheld an earlier District Court decision.

“This case isn’t about T-shirts; it’s about a public school telling a middle-schooler that he isn’t allowed to express a view that differs from their own,” David Cortman, Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel and vice president of U.S. Litigation, said in a statement following the federal court’s decision. The organization is representing the Morrison family, along with the Massachusetts Family Institute.

Morrison, who was in seventh grade at the time, was sent home with his father after he refused to take off the shirt, according to the court document. He later wore the same shirt with the words “only two” covered with a piece of tape on which “censored” was written. The school also told him to take this shirt off.

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a photo of Liam Morrison

Liam Morrison wore a shirt to school on May 5, 2023, that said “There are censored genders.” (Morrison family)

In an interview with Fox News Digital last year, Morrison stressed that his T-shirt was not directed toward anyone, specifically people who are “lesbian or gay or transgender or anything like that.”

“I’m just voicing my opinion about a statement that I believe to be true,” he said at the time. “And I feel like some people may think that I’m imposing hate speech, even though it’s not directed towards anyone.”

a photo of Liam Morrison outside his school

Then-seventh grader Liam Morrison stands outside the John T. Nichols Jr. Middle School in Middleborough, Massachusetts. (Morrison family)

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Cortman said that the “legal system is built on the truth that the government cannot silence any speaker just because it disapproves of what they say.”

“The school actively promotes its view about gender through posters and ‘Pride’ events, and it encourages students to wear clothing with messages on the same topic – so long as that clothing expresses the school’s preferred views on the subject,” Cortman added.

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Cortman said that they are reviewing all legal options, including appealing the federal circuit court’s decision.

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