Update: Over the weekend, U.S. District Court for Wyoming Senior Judge Nancy Freudenthal signed Schmidt's settlement consent order and dismissed the case.
The University of Wyoming has settled with the Laramie evangelist who sued it for censoring his speech about a transgender student’s sex.
Todd Schmidt sued UW President Ed Seidel and Dean of Students Ryan O’Neil in June, six months after O’Neil had Schmidt cover part of a sign he displayed Dec. 2 from his reserved table in the UW Student Union. Then Seidel declared a one-year tabling ban on Schmidt presenting in the Union.
The sign was a commentary on the first transgender student accepted into the UW chapter of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. It read, “God created male and female and Artemis Langford is a male.”
O’Neil had Schmidt cover Langford’s name on the sign.
U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal issued a preliminary injunction in August, saying Schmidt’s speech was protected under the First Amendment and didn’t rise to the high legal bar of becoming discrimination or harassment. Freudenthal said UW appeared to be favoring one type of speech over another.
She blocked UW officials from censoring or banning Schmidt throughout the lawsuit.
If Freudenthal agrees to the settlement that Schmidt, O’Neil and Seidel have put before her, UW will be blocked permanently from censoring or banning Schmidt over his views on Langford’s sexual identity.
The college also would pay Schmidt’s attorney fees of $35,000 within 20 days of Freudenthal’s acceptance and filing of the settlement.
The settlement does not diminish the officials’ ability to sanction “possible future misbehavior by Schmidt, such as continuing to engage with students who do not wish to speak with him.”
Free Expression On Campus
Schmidt’s attorney Nathan Kellum, of the Center for Religious Expression, could not be reached immediately Friday for comment.
Schmidt declined to comment.
Other than the attorneys’ fees, UW is not giving Schmidt other money under the agreement. Schmidt had attempted to sue O’Neil as an individual as well as her official capacity, but Freudenthal disallowed that, saying O’Neil may not have reasonably known she was violating his rights as she censored him. The judge said the First Amendment law involved was at a “high level.”
Schmidt had sought nominal damages from O’Neil.
If Freudenthal signs the settlement, the case will be closed.
“UW President Ed Seidel previously issued a statement indicating the university accepting the judge’s preliminary injunction and is committed to free expression on campus, within legal limits, under protections provided by the First Amendment,” reads a statement from the university.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.