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Trial Likely In Suit Against Anti-Gay Ex-Official

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ANN ARBOR (WWJ/AP) – A federal judge has declined to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses a then-Michigan assistant attorney general of stalking a gay University of Michigan student government president.

Judge Arthur Tarnow’s decision means the case against Andrew Shirvell will go to a jury trial, said Deborah Gordon, lawyer for ex-Michigan student leader Christopher Armstrong. The judge also dismissed Shirvell’s countersuit against Armstrong.

Then-Attorney General Mike Cox fired Shirvell in 2010 after the aide criticized Armstrong on an anti-gay blog, in Facebook posts and during visits to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The suit accuses Shirvell of defaming Armstrong and causing him emotional distress. Tarnow issued his ruling Monday after hearing arguments from lawyers in the case, Gordon said.

“I am disappointed that Judge Tarnow threw out my counter-suit against Chris Armstrong,” Shirvell said in an email message to The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I disagree with the ruling and I will appeal it at the appropriate time.”

Shirvell said he was acting within his First Amendment rights in criticizing Armstrong and that his statements were either true or protected because of Armstrong’s role as a public figure.

“We live in the United States. If I believe that Chris Armstrong is a radical homosexual activist, I have a constitutional right to express that opinion,” Shirvell said. “I look forward to presenting my case before a jury of my peers.”

TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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