Free Speech

If you haven’t heard, there’s some shit hitting the fan at the University of Washington over an op-ed that ran in The Daily: Gay marriage? Let’s stop and think about this by John Fay.

At a rally today, people protested the publishing of the article:
From seattletimes.nwsource.com:

Protesters say language in the column, including a reference to bestiality, coupled with the accompanying image of a man standing next to a sheep, amounted to hate speech. But speakers differed on whether the paper should be censured.

For what it’s worth, I don’t agree with the content article at all. Fay’s opinion is flawed. He has no grasp on the Constitution and what it means; he is, in short, ignorant…and you know my stance on that. Is it hateful speech? Yes, it hurt someones feelings. Should it have been censored and/or should The Daily be censured? Absolutely not.

Free Speech is still free speech (expect when it’s not, but this isn’t one of those times).

I’m not going to go in depth about why Fay’s argument is flawed. Mostly because there’s already a couple of good rebuttal pieces out there, partly because the reasoning should be self evident, and also because I have a final tomorrow and really should be studying. Thus, if you’re looking for a good rebuttal piece, check out:

Please try to refrain from making jokes about Fay in the comments.

2 Replies to “Free Speech”

  1. I read this article too, and despite not exactly being the biggest proponent of homosexuality, I even scoffed at it.

    But I hope when you say this:
    “Is it hateful speech? Yes, it hurt someones feelings.”
    You don’t mean that since it hurt someone’s feelings it is hateful speech. I don’t really know what you were trying to say there..

    Also, I’m curious how you got to him having no grasp on the Constitution. Not knowing much about it myself, I did not pick up on that..

    But I would agree that this sort of thing should not be censored for the reason that it is offensive. However, I don’t know if I would’ve published this article, because I don’t know if anyone in the world is on the same page as Fay on this one. It seems not so useful to have people write opinion articles when their opinion is so out there as to be disregarded by just about anyone anyway.

  2. @quinn:

    Hateful speech is not the same thing as Hate Speech, that was a bit nuanced and I should have made that more clear. So no, I do not thing that Fay’s article is Hate Speech in the legally defined way. In fact, in the balance of right (of free speech) and power (of the government to suppress it), you would have to make a super compelling (i.e. near impossible) case for me to limit speech.

    As for Fay’s lack of grasp on the Constitution:

    1) “There is nothing constitutional about gay marriage on a state or federal level. For gay marriage to even fit within the court?s jurisdiction, it must have some basis in constitutionality.”

    I’ll only deal with the US Constitution, because that’s the one I care about (it due to the Supremacy Clause, it’s the only one that really matters). First, laws don’t give rights to people, laws take rights away from people. People are free to do whatever they want unless there is a law that restricts it. The laws of the United States come from the rights the people agreed to give up in the Constitution. However, the Constitution also specifically states many, but not all, rights the people are not giving up. It’s not about giving people rights. It’s about taking rights away.

    Second, I’m not sure why Fay thinks the court has no jurisdiction. The court has jurisdiction because of the 14th Amendment: “…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    2) “Now, there are several major problems with legalizing gay marriage. Once you?ve legalized gay marriage, why not polygamy, incest, bestiality or any other form of union? If the only criteria is that people love each other, then who says it?s wrong for a 70-year-old man to marry 10 underage girls?”

    The Constitional rights that allow homosexuality do not and would not apply to someone who likes to engage in sex with minors. Why? Compelling State Interest: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compelling_state_interest

    In the case of sex with minors, the state has a compelling interest to protect them. Thus, it is illegal to have sex with those under the age of adulthood.

    Similar Compelling State Interest arguments could probably be made for all the other areas too, including polygamy.

    3) “Any state interpretation of marriage that violates traditional church views may well be a violation of the First Amendment.”

    I’ll admit that the religion part (known as the Free Exercise Clause) of the First Amendment is a bit tricky to understand.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” What this means in practical terms is that I cannot make a law that specifically targets a religion.

    For example, Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990) dealt with a similar issue. The Court concluded that “Neutral laws of general applicability do not violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employment_Division_v._Smith)

    Thus, “The Free Exercise Clause permits the State to prohibit sacramental peyote use and thus to deny unemployment benefits to persons discharged for such use.” (Source: 494 U.S. 872)

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