Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

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New Mexico university sued for ‘viewpoint discrimination’ after charging ‘hefty fee’ to conservative group

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The University of New Mexico (UNM) is being sued in federal court due to the “hefty” security fee imposed on an event held by conservative students.

The Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) filed a federal lawsuit against UNM for attempting to charge students over $5,000 in security fees for hosting women’s sports activist and former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines as a speaker. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Turning Point USA chapter at the university and the Leadership Institute, an organization that supports conservative student organizations with event planning.

Gaines, the director of the Riley Gaines Center at the Leadership Institute and a former Division I athlete who competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, was set to speak “about her experience competing against a transgender athlete” and as someone “who advocates for the protection of women’s opportunities in sports.”

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Gaines being billed to speak for the TPUSA chapter prompted UNM to inform students that the event would require heavy security presence and provided an initial quote of over $10,000 to cover a security fee.

SLF sent UNM a letter before the event warning them that imposing security fees or costs based on an assumption of how people would react to a person’s speech violates the First Amendment. 

They added that making such judgments on speakers’ viewpoints is “never constitutional.” According to the complaint, SLF argued that UNM officials “engaged in viewpoint and content discrimination when they required Plaintiffs to bear the cost of security based on the officials’ subjective assessment of the crowd’s potential reaction to Ms. Gaines’ speech.”

However, UNM billed the Leadership Institute and the TPUSA campus group $5,384 to cover the security fees despite the letter.

“The invoice showed that twenty-seven officers were on-site, with several officers roaming and even an ‘arrest team’ standing by, even though the event was peaceful and only a few protestors showed up holding signs. UNM also admitted that the university consistently applies higher fees to Turning Point USA events,” SLF said in a statement.

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TPUSA is the only conservative organization remaining on UNM’s campus, SLF added.

Gaines’ presence on college campuses has previously drawn ire from critics and protestors at her speaking events.

She previously said she was assaulted and held hostage for ransom in April 2023 after speaking at an event hosted by a conservative campus organization, Turning Point USA, at San Francisco State University.

At the San Franciso State University event, she spoke about her experience in her senior year of college competing against Thomas. The two had tied for fifth place in a national swimming championship.

The San Francisco State University Police Department has since suspended its investigation into the hostage incident and assault last year. 

In addition to speaking about her experiences, Gaines is an Outkick contributor and host of ‘Gaines for Girls’ on Outkick

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