Activists placed fliers on vehicles near the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house on the University of Wyoming campus Thursday protesting the sorority chapter’s induction of a transgender member.
UW dispatched a statement Friday saying the protesters were within their free-speech rights.
Colorado-based women's-rights group Rocky Mountain Women's Network was responsible for the protest, the group wrote in a Sept. 27 post to X.com, formerly known as Twitter.
"Rocky Mountain Women's Network is going to the University of Wyoming to drop these around the kappa kappa gamma house," reads the post, with an attached photo depicting rocks painted to read "Artemis Langford is a man," and "Rocky Mountain Women's Network."
Chad Baldwin, UW spokesman, told Cowboy State Daily the wording on the fliers was the “same basic message” as the one Laramie church elder Todd Schmidt displayed in the UW’s Student Union on Dec. 2, calling out the transgender inductee by name as a male.
The three people were from out of state and had Colorado license plates. They were only there from about 5-5:40 p.m. Thursday, said Baldwin.
Within Their Rights
The operatives were within their free-speech rights, so university police didn’t ticket them, the statement says.
UW police did ask them not to put the fliers on people’s cars without their consent, since that violates a Laramie city ordinance. Officers and other people collected the more than 20 painted rocks the protesters put on the ground and retained them.
“They were treated as abandoned property,” says the statement.
Because the chalk on the sidewalk didn’t permanently deface property, that action also wasn’t criminal conduct, and UW employees washed off the chalk, the statement says.
UWPD has provided enhanced security around the sorority house since the induction controversy erupted last autumn, and will continue to do so, the statement and Baldwin both said.
Same Speech, Different Day
Laramie church elder Todd Schmidt on Dec. 2 displayed a sign from his reserved table in the Wyoming Student Union, calling out the Kappa inductee by name.
“God created male and female and Artemis Langford is a male,” read the sign.
The dean of students asked him to cover the student’s name on the sign. Days later, UW suspended Schmidt’s tabling privileges for a year.
After Schmidt sued claiming his free speech right was violated, U.S. Senior District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal issued a preliminary injunction blocking the university from censoring Schmidt or banning him from the student union.
Freudenthal wrote that Schmidt’s speech wasn’t harassment or discrimination, as the university had argued.
UW leaders responded in court Monday to Schmidt’s claims.
UW President Ed Seidel, whom Schmidt is suing, announced Friday that UW had to file the response in court while considering whether to press on in the lawsuit. UW is not going to challenge the preliminary injunction, Seidel added.
But UW leaders “will be watching closely to make sure that Schmidt’s speech — and that of others — does not go beyond the legal bounds recognized in this ruling and established in decades of case law,” he said.
Speech All Around
UW is preparing to host both a drag show and a guest speaker who opposes male competition in women’s sports: national activist Riley Gaines.
Seidel said both planned activities are garnering criticism from people outside the university.
He also pledged to fight “reprehensible” speech with his own speech.
“The First Amendment allows expression that is so reprehensible that it must be answered,” he wrote. “Within the framework of institutional neutrality, there may be occasions when I speak in response to speech that is objectionable from every reasonable perspective.”
Seidel bemoaned the increasing polarization of society and said people should find common ground amid all the disagreements.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.