Church Elder Not Sure If He Will Sue The University Of Wyoming Over Suspension

Amid backlash and public First Amendment debates, the church elder whose tabling privileges were suspended after he called out a transgender student at the University of Wyoming said he doesn't know if he wants to sue, but hopes the school reverses his suspension.

Clair McFarland

December 13, 20223 min read

Todd Schmidt
Todd Schmidt (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The church elder who displayed a sign at the University of Wyoming calling a transgender sorority inductee a male, by name, hasn’t ruled out suing the college for suspending his tabling rights for a year.   

Todd Schmidt told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday morning that he hopes the university reverses the suspension, especially after more than two dozen incoming and incumbent state legislators wrote to the university Friday asking for a change of course.   

“I’m hoping the pressure from the representatives and senators and Secretary of State-elect Chuck Gray will hopefully cause them (the college) to change their minds,” said Schmidt. 

Undecided On Further Action 

But Schmidt doesn’t know if he wants to pursue legal action, saying “I don’t know yet; I haven’t decided.”   

The sign Schmidt displayed from his presentation table in the student union Dec. 2 read, “God created male and female and (sorority member’s name) is a male.”   

After agreeing to an October interview in the school newspaper, the Branding Iron, the sorority inductee has become the center of a controversy around transgender rights and women’s privacy.   

UW Dean of Students Ryan O’Neil asked Schmidt to change the part of his sign featuring the student’s name, and Schmidt complied. Days later, the university suspended Schmidt’s tabling privileges for a year, though he is still allowed to access and speak on other parts of campus and has done so.   

First Amendment  

Two First Amendment law experts told Cowboy State Daily the college likely violated Schmidt’s right to free speech with the yearlong ban, as harassment is a difficult legal threshold to clear in speech restrictions and the school’s policies do not address Schmidt’s action specifically.   

Conversely, Wyoming Equality, a top LGBTQ advocacy group in the state, said that Schmidt’s sign falls under harassment exceptions to free speech.   

“We are glad that the University of Wyoming recognizes that harassing students falls outside of speech protected by the First Amendment,” reads a Wyoming Equality statement issued last week, “and that this kind of behavior is a violation of students’ basic rights.”  

Wyoming Equality director of communications Daniel Galbreath said “it is disheartening to see the kind of biased attacks on students’ safety and freedom that we’ve seen recently. Wyoming Equality exists, in large part, to support organizations that seek to work against exactly this kind of thing, and we look forward to collaborating statewide to make Wyoming a better, safer place, now more than ever.”  

University spokesman Chad Baldwin declined to comment.  

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter