Moms sue library for censoring women’s sports forum

Publisher’s note: The Susanville Library District struggled with the inclusion or exclusion of some books in our local library with staunch supporters and detractors on both sides. A related issue of where transgender athletes ought to complete has become a hot topic of discussion these days, and it’s spilled over at the Yolo County Library in Davis, and became an even hotter topic when a group trying to discuss the issue was shut down by library staff. This story also raises the issue of the appropriateness of a public entity’s approval or disapproval of such public discussions at their facilities.

A few minutes into Sophia Lorey’s speech about men participating in women’s sports at the Davis Branch Library, protestors began to interrupt her, shouting her down and accusing her of “misgendering.” A few minutes later, the outreach director for California Family Council and a former collegiate athlete’s presentation was ended by library staff.

Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and the Institute for Free Speech filed a lawsuit Monday against Yolo County Library officials for violating the First Amendment rights of several women’s groups who met in a local library to discuss the harms of allowing men to participate in women’s sports.

Moms for Liberty–Yolo County, the  Independent Council on Women’s Sports and several parental rights and women’s advocates are challenging library officials for removing them from a public building during an event hosted by Moms for Liberty. Library officials shut down the forum after only a few minutes, claiming that referring to male athletes in women’s sports as “men” violates library policy.

“Shutting down a presentation over disagreements is unconstitutional and, sadly, a growing trend among activists pushing ideologies that erase women and harm children,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Fortunately, the First Amendment stands as a bulwark against such censorship. Women have the right to speak out about their concerns regarding men participating in their sports. Yolo County Library employees hid behind their subjective policies to silence speech they disliked. We urge the court to uphold the constitutionally protected freedom of our clients to safely advocate on behalf of women’s rights without harassment or threats of punishment.”

On Aug. 20, the Yolo County chapter of Moms for Liberty hosted an event called “Forum for Fair and Safe Sport for Girls” in the Blanchard Community Room at the Mary L. Stephens–Davis Branch Library in Yolo County.

The event featured several speakers, including Sophia Lorey, the outreach director for California Family Council and a former collegiate athlete. A few minutes into Lorey’s speech about men participating in women’s sports, protestors began to interrupt her, shouting her down and accusing her of “misgendering.”

As Lorey tried to continue her speech, the library’s regional manager told her that if she continued to refer to male athletes as men, she would have to leave the room, and he would shut the event down. As a result, Lorey stopped her speech, and three minutes into the next speech, the regional manager told everyone to leave and turned off the projector to prevent the event from continuing. Organizers and attendees of the forum eventually left, unable to continue the planned event.

The lawsuit explains that Moms for Liberty faced resistance from the library multiple times. Library employees described Moms for Liberty events as “deeply disturbing” and looked for ways to enforce policies to make it difficult for the group to reserve rooms. Library employees displayed “LGBTQIA-affirming materials” during these events, asked a group that hosted a “drag queen story hour” to hold more “queer-affirming events” at the library, and openly encouraged protestors to attend Moms for Liberty gatherings.

At the event on Aug. 20, the regional manager invited protestors outside the library into the room and told an attendee he hoped more people would enter so that the room would exceed its capacity which would require the fire marshal to shut down the event.

“Americans have the right to speak on matters of public concern without fear that government employees will censor them for doing so,” explained Institute for Free Speech Vice President for Litigation Alan Gura. “Yolo County officials encouraged their ideological allies to disrupt speakers whose opinions they reject, and they actively censor speech that doesn’t match their own views. We expect this case will reaffirm every American’s First Amendment right to freely share ideas in public spaces.”

ADF and IFS attorneys filed Moms for Liberty-Yolo County v. Lopez with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Sacramento Division.

About The ADF Center for Academic Freedom
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to protecting First Amendment and related freedoms for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.