Gay Marriage Speech Sparks Lawsuit in CA

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The debate surrounding California's Prop 8 banning gay marriage has spilled into the classroom, prompting a lawsuit that could change the line between Christian students' rights and school rules on offensive speech.

Los Angeles City College student Jonathan Lopez claims his professor, John Matteson, humiliated him in front of his classmates as he delivered a speech against gay marriage.

Lopez's presentation included reading the dictionary definition of marriage and reciting two Bible verses.

Click play for comments from Lopez's attorney and a school official.

He says Matteson interrupted his speech with an expletive and refused to let him continue, only writing "ask God what your grade is" on his evaluation sheet. Lopez said the professor later threatened to expel him after he complained to school officials.

Alliance Defense Fund attorney David French said the instructor "clearly violated" the student's rights. The Christian legal group will represent Lopez in the case.

"Essentially what we're trying to do is to make sure that Christians have the same right to speak as anyone else," French told CBN News. "Not special rights, just the same rights."

Lopez gave the speech last November, just weeks after Prop 8 was passed to end same-sex marriage in California. The assignment was to give an "informative" speech on any topic.

Prior to the lawsuit, Allison Jones, the college's dean of Academic Affairs, said she told Lopez the school would discipline Matteson, but that the procedure would remain confidential.

In a letter to lawyers representing Lopez, Jones also claimed other students in his class complained that the speech was "hateful" and "rather preachy (and) persuasive" instead of the "informative style" the assignment called for.

Like many universities, Los Angeles City College has a speech code that prohibits offensive speech.

Sources: LA Times, Alliance Defense Fund

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