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When marriage became a 'hate crime'

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  • Thomas Morey
    June 25, 2007 When marriage became a hate crime By George Will Marriage is the foundation of the natural family and sustains family values. That sentence is
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2007
      June 25, 2007

      When marriage became a 'hate crime'
      By George Will

      Marriage is the foundation of the natural family and
      sustains family values. That sentence is inflammatory,
      perhaps even a hate crime.

      At least it is in Oakland, Calif. That city's
      government says those words italicized here constitute
      something akin to hate speech, and can be proscribed
      from the government's open e-mail system and employee
      bulletin board.

      When the McCain-Feingold law empowered government to
      regulate the quantity, content and timing of political
      campaign speech about government, it was predictable
      that the right of free speech would increasingly be
      sacrificed to various social objectives that free
      speech supposedly impedes. And it was predictable that
      speech suppression would become an instrument of
      cultural combat, used to settle ideological scores and
      advance political agendas by silencing adversaries.

      That has happened in Oakland. And, predictably, the
      ineffable 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has
      ratified this abridgement of First Amendment
      protections. Fortunately, overturning the 9th Circuit
      is steady work for the U.S. Supreme Court.

      Some African-American Christian women working for
      Oakland's government organized the Good News Employee
      Association (GNEA), which they announced with a flier
      describing their group as "a forum for people of Faith
      to express their views on the contemporary issues of
      the day. With respect for the Natural Family, Marriage
      and Family Values." The flier was distributed after
      other employees' groups, including those advocating
      gay rights, had advertised their political views and
      activities on the city's e-mail system and bulletin

      When the GNEA asked for equal opportunity to
      communicate by that system and that board, they were
      denied. Furthermore, the flier they posted was taken
      down and destroyed by city officials, who declared it
      "homophobic" and disruptive. The city government said
      the flier was "determined" to promote harassment based
      on sexual orientation. The city warned that the flier
      and communications like it could result in
      disciplinary action "up to and including termination."

      Effectively, the city has proscribed any speech that
      even one person might say questioned the gay rights
      agenda and therefore created what that person felt was
      a "hostile environment." This, even though gay rights
      advocates used the city's communication system to
      advertise "Happy Coming Out Day." Yet the terms
      "natural family," "marriage" and "family values" are
      considered intolerably inflammatory.

      The treatment of GNEA illustrates one technique by
      which America's growing ranks of self-appointed speech
      police expand their reach: They wait until groups they
      disagree with, such as GNEA, are provoked to respond
      to them in public debates, then they persecute them
      for annoying those to whom they are responding. In
      Oakland, this dialectic of censorship proceeded on a
      reasonable premise joined to a preposterous theory.

      The premise is that city officials are entitled to
      maintain workplace order and decorum. The theory is
      that government supervisors have such unbridled power
      of prior restraint on speech in the name of protecting
      order and decorum that they can nullify the First
      Amendment by declaring that even the mild text of the
      GNEA flier is inherently disruptive.

      The flier supposedly violated the city regulation
      prohibiting "discrimination and/or harassment based on
      sexual orientation."

      The only cited disruption was one lesbian's complaint
      that the flier made her feel "targeted" and
      "excluded." So anyone has the power to be a censor
      just by saying someone's speech has hurt his or her

      Unless the speech is "progressive." If GNEA claimed it
      felt "excluded" by advocacy of the gay rights agenda,
      would that advocacy have been suppressed? Of course
      not - although GNEA's members could plausibly argue
      that the city's speech police have created a "hostile
      workplace environment" against them.

      A district court affirmed the city's right to impose
      speech regulations that are patently not content

      It said the GNEA's speech interest - the flier - is
      "vanishingly small." GNEA, in its brief asking the
      U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, responds that some of
      the high court's seminal First Amendment rulings have
      concerned small matters, such the wearing of a
      T-shirt, standing on a soapbox, holding a picket sign
      and "other simple forms of expression."

      Congress is currently trying to enact yet another
      "hate crime" law that would authorize enhanced
      punishments for crimes committed because of, among
      other things, sexual orientation.

      A coalition of African-American clergy, the High
      Impact Leadership Coalition, opposes this, fearing it
      might be used "to muzzle the church."

      The clergy argue that in our "litigation prone
      society" the legislation would result in lawsuits
      having "a chilling effect" on speech and religious
      liberty. As the Oakland case demonstrates, that, too,
      is predictable.

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