Laramie Preacher Wins First Amendment Lawsuit Against University of Wyoming

(Midjourney)

A federal lawsuit against the University of Wyoming (UW) has been won by Todd Schmidt, an Elder at the Laramie Faith Community Church, asserting the violation of his constitutionally protected free speech rights.

Last December, Schmidt displayed a trans banner in the university’s student union, naming a specific transgender student. Following this incident, UW barred Schmidt from tabling at the union for a year, accusing him of harassment.

Challenging the university’s action on First Amendment grounds, Schmidt was granted a preliminary injunction which allowed him to return to the student union. The lawsuit concluded last week with both parties agreeing to a judge’s order.

Although the university is no longer permitted to censor Schmidt’s views regarding the sexual identity of individual students, it retains the right to penalize him for breaching other union policies, such as engaging students who have indicated a disinterest in communication.

In an attempt to have certain policies declared unconstitutional, Schmidt faced defeat. The standing university policies on discrimination were unaffected, establishing that Schmidt’s actions were not in violation of them.

UW’s official statement noted, “Judge Nancy Freudenthal’s preliminary ruling stated that UW did encroach upon Schmidt’s First Amendment rights, and his public misidentification [misgendering] of a transgender UW student did not equate to illegal harassment. The university possesses the authority to manage conduct within the student union, but in this instance, Schmidt’s actions were not deemed illegal discrimination or harassment.”

UW has been ordered to compensate Schmidt $35,000, covering attorney fees and associated costs.

The lawsuit took place amidst intense campus debate concerning free speech and acceptance of transgender individuals.

During the same week of Schmidt’s banner display, the university saw disruptions in two queer-centric events. In another related incident, a federal lawsuit aimed to expel the transgender student identified on Schmidt’s banner from her sorority, a case that was ultimately ruled in her favor. Concurrently, a talk opposing transgender inclusion in women’s sports was organized by a conservative student group, featuring former collegiate swimmer Riley Gaines.

UW’s President, Ed Seidel, emphasized the institution’s commitment to political impartiality and clarified its stance on hate speech during a recent Board of Trustees meeting.

He further stated in a letter, “While there are legal boundaries to free speech on our campus, feelings of discomfort or offense, and often even perceptions of unsafety, are not valid reasons in themselves to hinder speech.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here