Magistrate Recommends Dismissal in Transgender Pronoun Case

An Ohio magistrate has recommended that Dr. Nicholas Meriwether’s lawsuit against Shawnee State University (previously discussed) be dismissed. Meriwether had sued when it punished him after he refused to address a biologically male student with a female title — though he did agree to use only a last name.

“Speech by a government employee is protected under the First Amendment only if the speech was made ‘as a citizen’ while addressing ‘a matter of public concern,’” Litkovitz’s recommendation filing reads. “A government employee’s speech is made ‘as a citizen’ and is protected under the First Amendment only when the speech is not ‘pursuant to [the employee’s] duties.’”

That’s an awkward justification, because Meriwether was not punished for making what he claimed was protected speech. Instead, he was being required by the government to have certain content in his speech — content that conveyed a particular ideological view.

The ADF lawyers helping Meriwether said they’ll object on that basis:

ADF plans to file an objection to the magistrate’s recommendation with the district court in which it will argue that Litkovitz “misinterpreted and misapplied the law.”

“Dr. Nicholas Meriwether remains committed to serving all students with respect, but he cannot express all messages or endorse all ideologies,” ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham said in a statement. “When the university tried to force him to do this and then punished him for exercising his rights, it violated the First Amendment.”

The idea that the government can force a person to make a non-neutral, ideological expression is an anathema to human liberties, and one virtually every person would objectively oppose. It is only when people support subjective analysis — they like the outcome because it benefits them, not because of the principle behind it — that someone would think a ruling like this was a desirable outcome.

Doubt it? Reverse the requirement, and have the government require an employee to express a conservative or Christian ideal — then see how long it takes someone to change their mind and agree with Meriwether.

All that said, the magistrate rejected Meriwether’s argument about compelled speech because the university gave him the option of using first names or last names — just not gender-based titles (Mr., Ms.).  In other words, it did not force Meriwether to address a male using female pronouns; but it did require him to address every student differently because that one student complained.  Further, he would still be required to speak without reference to gender — in other words, with no pronouns, which would have required unreasonable linguistic gymnastics in every day speech.

All of this was to accommodate the feelings of one student who had made it his purpose in life to get Meriwether fired, only because Meriwether would not address him the way he wanted to be addressed.

Somehow, that kid could probably use a bit of schooling, too.

Via the Religion Clause.