Ohio professor awarded $400K after refusing to use transgender student’s pronouns

Ohio professor awarded $400K after refusing to use transgender student’s pronouns
Shawnee State University professor Nicholas Meriwether (ADF)
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An Ohio professor has won a substantial amount of money after suing a university over the academic institution’s demand that he use a transgender student’s correct pronouns.

 

Ohio professor Nicholas Meriwether has been awarded $400,000 after suing a university, with the help of anti-LGBT+ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), following his refusal to use the correct pronouns of a trans student.

Along with the money awarded, including legal fees, he will no longer be required to refer to students at Shawnee State University in Ohio by their preferred pronouns.

 

In January 2018, Meriwether, a philosophy professor and evangelical Christian, reportedly referred to a trans female student as “sir”, and refused to address her with correct “she/her” pronouns, even after being corrected several times. 

Shawnee State University professor Nicholas Meriwether

The public university in Ohio, where he had been employed since 1996, issued him a warning about use of pronouns in January 2018 in accordance with their non-discrimination statement.

 

The university’s academic guidelines, which were introduced in 2016, required the use of pronouns, including preferred pronouns, that match a student’s gender identity.

Shawnee State University in Ohio

Following the warning, Meriwether filed a federal lawsuit against the institution in November 2018, contending they had violated his constitutional rights by compelling him to speak in a way that contradicts his religious beliefs, reports NBC.

The professor’s attorneys argued Meriwether offered a series of compromises and “had offered to use any name the student requested instead of titles and pronouns”, but this was rejected.

 

What followed was a lengthy three-year legal battle, with a federal court initially dismissing Meriwether’s lawsuit, ruling the university didn’t infringe his rights by asking him to stop using male titles and pronouns to address the student.

 

However in February 2021, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided in Meriwether’s favour, ruling he was within his rights to sue the school, with the judge, who is Catholic, stating:

“The First Amendment interests are especially strong here because Nicholas Meriwether’s speech also relates to his core religious and philosophical beliefs.”

 

The case, filed by ADF on behalf of Meriwether, has since been settled with prejudice (meaning it is dismissed permanently) with the university agreeing to pay Meriwether $400,000 in damages plus attorney fees, as well as rescinding the written warning they issued back in 2018.

Additionally, the ADF said the university agreed that Meriwether will no longer be mandated to use a preferred pronouns, regardless of the individual student’s requests.

 

A press statement released by ADF regarding the settlement read: 

“The university has agreed that Meriwether has the right to choose when to use, or avoid using, titles or pronouns when referring to or addressing students. Significantly, the university agreed Meriwether will never be mandated to use pronouns, including if a student requests pronouns that conflict with his or her biological sex.”

 

Meanwhile Shawnee State University released a statement following the settlement calling it an “economic decision”:

“Though we have decided to settle, we adamantly deny that anyone at Shawnee State deprived Dr. Meriwether of his free speech rights or his rights to freely exercise his religion”, the statement reads.

“We continue to stand behind a student’s right to a discrimination-free learning environment as well as the rights of faculty, visitors, students and employees to freely express their ideas and beliefs.”

 

The decision comes as a wave of anti-trans bills are being introduced and passed across the US. 

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