An Ohio professor who misgendered students and refused to use students’ stated pronouns has been given $400,000 by his university to settle his case.
Nicholas Meriwether has been employed since 1996 as a philosophy professor at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.
In January 2018, he referred to a trans female student as “sir” and repeatedly refused to address her with correct “she/her” pronouns even after being corrected. The university’s administration issued him a written warning in accordance with their nondiscrimination statement.
Meriwether sued the university in November of 2018, claiming that his constitutional rights were being infringed. He was represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian organization that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The university argued that it was part of Meriwether’s job to respect students’ pronouns. A U.S. district court agreed and ruled in the university’s favor in February of 2020, dismissing the suit.
Meriwether appealed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May of 2020, asserting that the student he had misgendered had not been denied any educational rights.
On March 26, 2021, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Meriwether could continue to sue the university, concluding that he had “plausibly alleged that Shawnee State burdened his free-exercise rights.”
On Thursday, the case was settled with prejudice—meaning it was dismissed permanently—with the university agreeing to pay Meriwether $400,000 in damages plus attorney fees. The university also rescinded the written warning they issued Meriwether in 2018.
The Alliance Defending Freedom released a statement praising the victory against what say was an enforced “uniformity in thought.”
“We’re pleased to see the university recognize that the First Amendment guarantees Dr. Meriwether—and every other American—the right to speak and act in a manner consistent with one’s faith and convictions…Public universities should welcome intellectual and ideological diversity, where all students and professors can engage in meaningful discussions without compromising their core beliefs.”
Meriwhether remains a professor at Shawnee State University according to their directory.
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