BUFFALO, N.Y. — A conservative commentator scheduled to speak at the University at Buffalo Thursday evening is drawing condemnation from city leaders and members of the LGBTQ community.
Michael Knowles, of the Daily Wire, called for “transgenderism” to be “eradicated,” leading to strong rebukes from across the country.
"It comes to the public square by these authors that are given platforms to spread hate, misinformation and to make LGBTQ and marginalized people a political punching bag and to feed red meat to people that listen to this," said Buffalo Common Councilor Mitch Nowakowski.
The Young Americans for Freedom Club, an on-campus conservative group, invited Knowles to speak at UB.
Members of Buffalo's LGBTQ community are speaking out against what they call hate speech pointed at transgender people.
"Transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely, the whole preposterous ideology at every level," said Knowles while speaking last weekend at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Despite pushback from students, faculty and the greater community, UB President Satish Tripathi said the university must allow free speech and can’t disallow the student group from inviting the speaker.
Nowakowski, who is openly gay, said he understands the free speech rights, but now is a time to make other voices heard.
"I'm not going to allow him to come into this community and eradicate trans voices," said Nowakowski. "That's why we're here, to uplift trans voices in the city of Buffalo, to make sure that they get their voice and their due."
"It's not a choice or a belief system and truly, even if it was, it would still be hateful to call on the full-scale eradication of any belief system," said Kelly Craig, executive director of the Pride Center of WNY.
Neither Knowles nor the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at the university immediately returned requests for comment for this story.
Attorney Zach Greenberg said the public university is legally bound by the First Amendment to allow the speaker to express his viewpoints.
"Hateful speech, as that term is defined, is protected by the First Amendment unless the speech would be an unprotected true threat, discriminatory harassment, obscenities or child pornography, it would remain protected by the First Amendment," said Greenberg.
But advocates for people who are transgender say words like those of Knowles do represent a threat to their community, adding they have serious concerns about mental health issues and suicide in the LGTBQ community and encourage those who might be feeling trauma about Knowles' visit to UB to reach out for help.
"It's important for UB to be able to stand up and say, when it's so brazen and out there, that it's calling for violence against a group of people, to say no, but also to encourage the creation of clubs, student groups, affinity groups to support these students," said Jack Cavanaugh, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Services for Western New York.