Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Yale Law Students Protest Alliance Defending Freedom Speaker At FedSoc Event, Prof Tells Them To 'Grow Up'; Armed Police Presence Triggers Backlash


Yale Daily News, Yale Law Students Protest Anti-LGBTQ Speaker, Armed Police Presence Triggers Backlash:

Yale Law Logo (2020)At a Thursday event at the Yale Law School, more than 120 students gathered to protest Kristen Waggoner, a controversial anti-LGBTQ speaker invited by the Federalist Society. At least four armed police were called to respond to the protest.

Waggoner was invited by the Federalist Society, alongside Monica Miller, an associate at the American Humanist Association, to discuss civil rights litigation in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski. However, Waggoner’s role as the general counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, generated a large student protest to which police were called. Over 400 law students — more than half of the current Law School student body — have signed an open letter condemning the presence of armed police at a student protest at the Federalist Society meeting. In the open letter, the students pointed in particular to the history of anti-LGBTQ actions taken by the group.

“Understandably, a large swath of [Yale Law School] students felt that [the Federalist Society’s] decision to lend legitimacy to this hate group by inviting its general counsel to speak at [Yale Law School] profoundly undermined our community’s values of equity and inclusivity at a time when LGBTQ youth are actively under attack in Texas, Florida, and other states,” the open letter reads. “… Even with all of the privilege afforded to us at YLS, the decision to allow police officers in as a response to the protest put YLS’ queer student body at risk of harm.”

The letter was primarily concerned with the presence of armed police at the protest, but additionally condemned law professor Kate Stith, who moderated the event and told the protesters to “grow up.” The letter, which was initially submitted to Law School administrators with over 130 signatures and has since more than tripled in signatories, notes that signatories are “a coalition of queer students and allies deeply concerned with the presence of armed police at a peaceful protest of law student. ...

As Stith began to read aloud the University’s free speech policy, multiple protesters responded that “this protest is free speech.” Stith continued on to say “come on, grow up,” and was met with a response of “will those trans kids grow up?” Around half of the people in the room left after the comment from Stith, and more continued to leave as the event continued. Some protestors went on to occupy the hallway outside. ...

“I was horrified when I first heard that [the Federalist Society] had invited [Alliance Defending Freedom] ADF to campus,” Alex Johnson LAW ’24 told the News. “ADF has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and for good reason: their entire mission is to devalue queer lives. To provide them a platform for that mission, especially under the disingenuous guise of what it means to ‘litigate civil rights,’ is disgraceful, and I hope — although I doubt — FedSoc has learned that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated in silence.” 

Other students condemned the Law School faculty for its lack of respect for the rights of students to exercise free speech through protest. “I think that it is troubling when Yale Law School, which presents itself as the nation’s top law school, doesn’t recognize that protest is a valid political expression and also protected speech,” Perler said. “[It’s] just ironic that students who showed up to engage in free speech, either by asking questions or by protesting the event, were faced with armed police.”


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