Professor Sues University For The Right To Discriminate Against Transgender Students
A professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio is suing the school for the right to discriminate against his transgender students. According to the lawsuit, Professor Nicholas Meriwether believes the school is infringing on his freedoms of speech and religion by requiring him to respect the identities of transgender students.
Meriwether enlisted the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an anti-LGBT group, for help arguing his case. Shawnee’s nondiscrimination policy gives protections on the basis of gender identity.
The Philosophy professor’s lawsuit is in response to a warning letter placed in his personnel file last summer. According to the letter, Meriwether repeatedly refused to respect a transgender student in his class during the spring semester.
The student, Alena Bruening, is a transgender woman. However, during class, Meriwether frequently addressed her as “Mr. Bruening” and responded, “Yes, sir” during their interactions in class. The lawsuit even misgenders Ms. Bruening, referring to her as “male.”
Bruening asked Meriwether to address her with feminine titles an pronouns after a class in January. The professor refused. The lawsuit explains that Meriwether believes “gender is fixed” and “that it cannot be changed, regardless of an individual’s feelings or desires.” Therefore, he shouldn’t have to address students according to their gender identity.
Both Bruening and Meriwether reported the interaction. School supervisors erred on Bruening’s side, telling Meriwether that he was in violation of the school’s nondiscrimination policy. The frustrations continued on both sides, ultimately causing another internal investigation.
While Meriwether claimed he didn’t deny the transgender student “any of the benefits” of his class, school officials disagreed. They concluded that Meriwether’s “disparate treatment has created a hostile environment” for Bruening. School investigators also interviewed two other transgender students.
One student already transferred out of the professor’s class to avoid him. The other was in the process of changing their name but was afraid to tell Meriwether because of how they may be treated in his class. Ultimately, the university’s interim president ruled that professors may not discriminate against students based on gender identity.
Meriwether and the ADF hope that the lawsuit against SSU will go their way. ADF attorney Tyson Langhofer explained in a statement on their site, “This isn’t just about a pronoun; this is about endorsing an ideology.”
Unfortunately for Meriwether and the ADF, the case isn’t about endorsing an ideology. It’s about not discriminating against people you disagree with.