Appeals Court Overturns Free Speech Ruling in Favor of California Student

Lawyers for a California college student branded a "fascist bastard" by his professor for speaking out against gay marriage in a speech class said Monday he may pursue further legal action after his case was thrown out by a federal appeals court.

The incident occurred in a Los Angeles City College classroom in 2008 just a few days after the passage of Proposition 8, a ballot measure that sought to ban same-sex marriage in California.

Student Jonathan Lopez sued the college after Professor John Matteson interrupted his speech and did not let him finish. Some of the students later complained that Lopez’s speech amounted to "hateful propaganda."

Matteson did not grade the speech but wrote on Lopez's evaluation, "Ask God what your grade is."

Lopez sued in federal court last year for monetary damages and to have the college's sexual harassment policy stricken, claiming it violated free speech rights by forbidding students from making statements that might be deemed "offensive."

In federal court, Lopez initially won when a judge issued an injunction preventing the college from enforcing the policy on "offensive" remarks because it violated students' right to free speech.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday, however, that Lopez failed to show that he been harmed by the code. According to the ruling, "No LACC official or student invoked or even mentioned the policy, nor did anyone suggest that Lopez's ... speech constituted sexual harassment," the ruling said.

Lopez may ask the full Ninth Circuit review the panel's decision. He can also petition that the panel's decision be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.