- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 15, 2024

A California county has agreed to strengthen its free-speech policies and pay $70,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Moms for Liberty and other groups after a librarian shut down their women’s sports forum for “misgendering” transgender athletes.

Under the settlement agreement, Yolo County officials will revise their library policy to mandate that staff “shall not interfere” with presentations in reserved meeting rooms based on the “content” of the views being expressed.

Library staff will be instructed to “curtail any disruptive behavior” during events. The county has also agreed to pay $70,000 in damages and attorney’s fees, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom.

The Institute for Free Speech, which represented the plaintiffs with the alliance, called the settlement a “clear victory for free speech and the First Amendment.”

“Yolo County officials tried to silence speakers and shut down an event because the ideas expressed there didn’t comport with the officials’ preferred ideology,’ said Alan Gura, institute vice president for litigation. “As a result of this lawsuit, Yolo County has now agreed to respect the right of all Americans to freely express their views in public spaces without fear of government censorship.”

Beth Bourne, chair of the Yolo County chapter of Moms for Liberty, declared on X: “We won!! Free speech prevails in Davis, CA!”

A host of organizations, including Moms for Liberty-Yolo County, the Independent Council on Women’s Sports, and the California Family Council, sued after a librarian broke up their “Forum on Fair and Safe Sport for Girls” last Aug. 20 at the Mary L. Stephens branch library in Davis.

Scott Love, regional manager for the Yolo County Library, confronted speaker Sophia Lorey after she referred to male-to-female transgender athletes as “men” and “biological men,” telling her to leave or he would “shut the entire program down.”

“California state law recognizes trans women as women. They are protected under state law,” said Mr. Love, as shown on video. “Our policy talks about treating people with respect, and if you are misgendering somebody, that is not respectful.”

The organizations returned to the library last month and held the forum “without incident,” said the alliance.

The plaintiffs filed a notice of dismissal Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

Tyson Langhofer, ADF senior counsel and director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, said that “public officials have a constitutional duty to uphold that [free-speech] right regardless of whether they agree with the point of view presented.”

“While they should never have shut down the event, Yolo County library officials are right to change course and enact policies that align with the First Amendment,” he said. “We are hopeful other public officials—whether at libraries, schools, or anywhere else—see this as an opportunity to take a strong stance for the speech and assembly rights of all Americans.”

The Washington Times has reached out to Yolo County for comment.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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