Police escort speakers out of Yale Law School panel amid LGBT protest

Police escort speakers out of Yale Law School panel amid LGBT protest

Campus police escorted a conservative lawyer and liberal speaker out of a recent panel discussion at Yale Law School after LGBT student protesters disrupted the debate and crowded the exit.

The conservative Yale Federalist Society said it hosted the March 10 panel discussion to illustrate how a Christian and an atheist could find common ground on free speech issues. The speakers were Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for the conservative law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, and Monica Miller of the progressive American Humanist Association.

But more than 100 student protesters objected that Ms. Waggoner’s presence denied their “full personhood” because of a 2015 ADF brief in the European Court of Human Rights. The brief argued the European Union should allow members nations to require a medical operation for citizens to change their genders legally.

More than 400 students, over half of Yale Law’s student body, signed an open letter last week supporting the “peaceful protest” against Ms. Waggoner and accusing the university of endangering them by allowing police to be present.

“The danger of police violence in this country is intensified against Black LGBTQ people, and particularly Black trans people,” the letter read. “Police-related trauma includes, but is certainly not limited to, physical harm. 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 university said in a statement that Yale law professor Kate Stith, who served as the panel’s moderator, read the Ivy League school’s free speech policy to the protesters when they “began to make noise” at the start of the event.

After “administrators and staff instructed students to stop” making noise in the hallways, the statement adds that law school staff spoke to Yale Police Department officers “who were already on hand” about what to do if students did not comply.

“Fortunately, that assistance was not needed and the event went forward until its conclusion,” Yale said in the statement. “Members of the administration are nonetheless in serious conversation with students about our free speech policies, expectations and norms.”

Cellphone videos show the protesters chanting “protect trans kids” and “shame, shame” from the hallways as the panelists discussed a recent 8-1 U.S. Supreme Court decision in which both organizations had supported the justices’ definition of free speech.

Ms. Waggoner said the protesters “created such a volatile situation that campus security had to escort us from the building” afterward.

“It was disturbing to witness law students whipped into a mindless frenzy. I did not feel it was safe to get out of the room without security,” she said.

But Ms. Miller, who called ADF a “hate group” during the panel, said Friday she didn’t feel she was in danger.

“I strongly defend the rights of students to assemble and protest,” Ms. Miller told The Washington Times. “So much so that I was willing to work with ADF to get their case before the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that, if left unturned, would have had catastrophic implications for LGBTQ rights and free speech rights in the south.”

“As lawyers, we have to put aside our differences and talk to opposing counsel,” Ms. Miller said. “If you can’t talk to your opponents, you can’t be an effective advocate.”

Judge Laurence Silberman, a Reagan appointee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, commented on the incident Thursday in a listserv email to all U.S. Supreme Court, federal and district judges.

“The latest events at Yale Law School, in which students attempted to shout down speakers participating in a panel discussion on free speech, prompt me to suggest that students who are identified as those willing to disrupt any such panel discussion should be noted,” Judge Silberman wrote. “All federal judges — and all federal judges are presumably committed to free speech — should carefully consider whether any student so identified should be disqualified from potential clerkships.”