ROWLAND v. MAD RIVER LOCAL SCHOOL DIST., MONTGOMERY COUNTY, OHIO
470 U.S. 1009 (1985)

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U.S. Supreme Court

ROWLAND v. MAD RIVER LOCAL SCHOOL DIST., MONTGOMERY COUNTY, OHIO , 470 U.S. 1009 (1985)

470 U.S. 1009

Marjorie H. ROWLAND
v.
MAD RIVER LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, OHIO
No. 84-532

Supreme Court of the United States

February 25, 1985

Rehearing Denied April 22, 1985.

See 471 U.S. 1062.

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice BRENNAN, with whom Justice MARSHALL joins, dissenting.

This case raises important constitutional questions regarding the rights of public employees to maintain and express their private sexual preferences. Petitioner, a public high school employee, "was fired because she was a homosexual who revealed her sexual preference-and, as the jury found, for no other reason." 730 F.2d 444, 454 (CA6 1984) ( Edwards, J., dissenting). Because determination of the appropriate constitutional analysis to apply in such a case continues to puzzle lower courts and because this Court has never addressed the issues presented, I would grant certiorari and set this case for oral argument.

I

In December 1974, petitioner was suspended from her nontenured position as a high school guidance counselor. In April

Page 470 U.S. 1009 , 1010

1975, the respondent School District acting through its School Board decided not to renew petitioner's contract. A jury later made unchallenged findings that petitioner was suspended and not rehired solely because she was bisexual and had told her secretary and some fellow teachers that she was bisexual, and not for "any other reason." See id., at 460 (Special Verdict VIII). The jury also found that petitioner's mention of her bisexuality did not "in any way interfere with the proper performance of [her or other school staff members'] duties or with the regular operation of the school generally." Id., at 456-458 (Special Verdicts I, II, and III). The jury concluded that petitioner had suffered damages as a result of the decisions to suspend and not rehire her in the form of personal humiliation, mental anguish, and lost earnings.

The trial judge ruled that these findings supported petitioner's claims for violation of her constitutional right to free speech under Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563 (1968), and to equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. [Footnote 1] He therefore entered a judgment for damages for petitioner.

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed. The court first ruled that in light of our intervening decision in Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138 (1983), the decision to discharge petitioner based on her workplace statements was unobjectionable under the First Amendment because petitioner's speech was not about "a matter of public concern." 730 F.2d, at 451. While accepting the jury's finding that petitioner's mention of her bisexuality had not interfered "in any way" with the "regular operation of the school," the court concluded that it was constitutionally permissible to dismiss petitioner "for talking about it." Id., at 450. Second, the court held that no equal protection claim could possibly have been made out, because there was presented "no evidence of how other employees with different sexual preferences were treated." Ibid. Without citation to any precedent, the court characterized the judgment for petitioner in the absence of such comparative evidence as "plain error." 2

[470 U.S. 1009 , 1011]


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