Professor Who Refused to Call Trans Student by Preferred Pronoun Wins Court Battle
'We need to stand up'
A professor, who refused to call a transgender student by their preferred pronoun, can now pursue his lawsuit against Shawnee State University in Ohio, a federal appeals court said.
Nicholas Meriwether was "punished for his speech on a hotly contested issue,” the appeals court said.
“And it did so despite the constitutional protections afforded by the First Amendment.”
In 2018, Meriwether called a trans woman “sir," which he says happened accidentally because he was not informed of his student’s preferred pronoun.
According to the lawsuit, the student then “demanded” to be called “Ms.,” like other female students, threatening him with being fired if he didn't comply.
The university asked Meriwether to stop using masculine and feminine titles and gendered pronouns, but he argued this was next to impossible.
He offered to refer to the student in question by her last name only.
Meriwether also called the student “Mr.” again in front of the class by accident, he says.
Meriwether told Fox News host Tucker Carlson why he sued the university after he was told he created a "hostile environment" by not calling a transgender student by the preferred pronoun.
"Well, basically, if I had not [sued], I would have been fired, I would have been terminated," Meriwether said.
"That was one reason. It wasn't the only reason.
"The other was as you say, as you just said, I think we need to stand up against it, and I do think that we are losing our academic freedom."
"We are losing our freedom to disagree, and until people stand up to it, I think it's just going to get much, much worse, much, much faster."
Meriwether's attorney, Kristen Waggoner with the Alliance Defending Freedom, explained the importance of the legal precedent this case set.
"We won on both free speech and free exercise grounds, and the sixth circuit court of appeals said very clearly that the use of titles and pronouns is a part of a debate that this nation is engaging in right now and that those terms are infused with great meaning."
"That it is not the government's role to set the terms of that debate or weigh in on one side or the other."
"The court's decision actually referenced what would happen if the government demanded ideological purity," he added.
"It used examples like the government could then force a pacifist, for example, to have to support war."
"It could force a civil rights icon to criticize the freedom riders, or to even force a Christian to deny the existence of god," he said.
"Those are examples that the sixth circuit itself recognized, and it basically said, if the government has that kind of power, it can essentially do almost anything it wants.
"That power is unlimited."