- The LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus led by two Pennsylvania state representatives published a statement that demanded the University of Pittsburgh cancel three upcoming conservative speaker events because of “hate speech.”
- Two conservative student groups will hold separate events throughout the spring semester featuring Daily Wire commentator Michael Knowles, Senior Editor Cabot Phillips and former University of Kentucky swimmer and Independent Women’s Forum spokeswoman Riley Gaines.
- “I find it quite repulsive that government officials who are well-versed in the laws and comprehend that Pitt is unable to cancel our event without exposing a lawsuit are still pressing for them to do so,” Khaleil Laracunete, the chapter’s Vice President, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Democratic Pennsylvania lawmakers are demanding a state university cancel three conservative speaker events set to occur this semester because of alleged “hate speech,” according to a Wednesday statement.
Conservative student groups at the University of Pittsburgh (UPitt) will host Daily Wire commentator Michael Knowles, Senior Editor Cabot Phillips and former University of Kentucky swimmer and Independent Women’s Forum spokeswoman Riley Gaines at separate events this semester, according to an Instagram post. The LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, led by Democratic state Reps. Jessica Benham and Malcolm Kenyatta, issued a statement on Wednesday that demanded UPitt cancel the events because the speakers are “transphobic.”
“I am shocked, appalled and outraged that an institution as prestigious as the University of Pittsburgh is allowing these events to occur on their property and bolstering these hateful individuals,” Benham said in the statement. “This is not a free speech issue. Hate speech is not protected speech. This is about the safety of transgender students and recognizing that transgender people exist.”
The Turning Point USA (TPUSA) chapter will host Phillips on March 24 to speak about “Everything The Media Won’t Tell You” and Gaines, who competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas during the 2022 NCAA women’s swimming championship, on March 27 to speak about efforts to “Save Women’s Sports.” The College Republican chapter will host a debate sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute between Knowles and transgender professor Deirdre McCloskey about “Transgenderism & Womanhood” on April 18.
“It’s really sad when you have people who are supposed to do an accurate job of representing their country, their party, but they’re not willing to listen to the other side. Even many people within their own party, they’re not accurately listening to,” Gaines told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “When they try to silence my voice and my side of the argument, it just shows that they’re not genuinely interested in creating a feasible solution that protects women and protects trans individuals. It shows they just want to take women’s rights.”
Liliana Orozco, TPUSA chapter president, told the DCNF that the chapter invited Gaines to speak because she is relatable as a recent college graduate. Khaleil Laracunete, the chapter’s Vice President, said that the lawmakers are “supposed to uphold and defend the Constitution,” but their actions show that “they are not here to do so, nor do they care about the First Amendment.”
“I find it quite repulsive that government officials who are well-versed in the laws and comprehend that Pitt is unable to cancel our event without exposing a lawsuit are still pressing for them to do so,” Khaleil Laracunete, the chapter’s Vice President, told the DCNF.
Colleges should not be “a place for bigotry and hate,” Kenyatta argued in his statement. He called the events happening at UPitt “despicable and heartbreaking.”
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The allegation that “hate speech” is not “free speech” concerns College Republicans at Pitt President Dylan Mitchell, who referenced the 2017 Supreme Court case, Matal v. Tam, which ruled the government cannot regulate speech society finds offensive.
“Freedom of speech is freedom of speech,” he said. “The idea that saying ‘a man is a man and a woman is a woman’ is something that most of human society has believed for a long time is suddenly hate speech just proves that that phrase is just being used … to hit over the head anyone who disagrees with their narrative.”
Knowles came under fire earlier this month after he said transgenderism must be “eradicated” during a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) speech. The Daily Beast, a liberal news outlet, claimed that Knowles’ advocated for eradicating the “transgender community,” but later corrected the article.
“Giving a podium and university resources to someone like Michael Knowles who has publicly stated his goal is to eradicate ‘transgenderism’ from public life is a direct violation of the university’s commitment to support and protect its transgender community members,” Benham said, according to the statement.
The calls for UPitt to cancel the debate between Knowles and McCloskey is ironic since McCloskey is transgender and “follows a week-long defamation campaign by the liberal establishment, from the press all the way up to the White House,“ Knowles told the DCNF.
“First, they lied about what I said. Now they are attempting to censor me from debating the issue—even when their side will be represented by a distinguished academic with three degrees from Harvard and half a dozen honorary doctorates,” he said. “It’s almost as if the pro-transgenderism activists know that their ideology is absurd and indefensible, and so their best bet is to libel, slander, and censor anyone who dares to articulate basic truths.”
In addition to the lawmakers, nearly 10,000 individuals have signed a petition demanding the university cancel the events. The TPUSA chapter will “not cancel events under any circumstances” and is working with the university to ensure they proceed safely, Orozco told the DCNF.
“I would love for students who are disappointed with our events to attend. Even if they disagree, there is nothing wrong with attempting to comprehend or even just listening to a different perspective,” Laracunete told the DCNF. “I believe it is also beneficial to understand that the First Amendment applies to everyone, not just those who concur with you.”
The College Republican chapter is not threatened by the lawmakers’ demands, Joshua Minsky, College Republicans at Pitt Vice President, told the DCNF. Rather, the backlash has inspired them to hold more events.
“For years conservatives have been put down and we’ve faced pressure like this, even from top officials in the government trying to shut down our speech,” he said. “They know they can’t do it legally, so they use this type of pressure and this type of mob-based pressure to try and get us to quit and it’s not going to happen.”
UPitt, McCloskey, Benham and Kenyatta did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment. Phillips deferred to Knowles’ statement.
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