So…there’s a lot of talk going around in my office at the moment about the “chilling effect” that the The Matthew Shepard Act will have on people’s freedom of speech… the logic, as explained to me by the office right wing libertarian, is as follows:
If you include sexual orientation in the list of groups protected by hate crime legislation, it will make people who disagree with the homosexual lifestyle because of their religion afraid to say so, because they don’t want to be lumped in with racists and sexists, and anti-foreigners.
This, according to their logic constitutes “abridging the freedom of speech,” which is explicitly forbidden in the constitution.
Now, I putting aside whether or not we should even have hate crime laws in the first place, (As according to some, they’re past their prime, along with Affirmative Action, because iisn’t a problem anymore/i… right…) because that’s a whole other freaking argument and we’d be here all day.
I’m also putting aside the part where I already lump people who discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation in with those who discriminate on the basis of race or sex, because if I didn’t I’d just say “too late” and call it a day.
Instead I’d like to address the logic behind these statements and how it makes no freaking sense.
lj-cut text=”Pedantic Rant Behind Cut…”First of all: As the law is currently written, it is a hate crime to beat someone up for having a different religion than you do.
Has this had a “chilling effect” on peoples freedom of religious speech thus far? I don’t think so… given the door to door Mormons that visited my mother the other day, or the Evangelical gentleman who handed me a “How to be Saved” pamphlet in the AutoZone Parking Lot after helping me toggle a rusty switch to get my old windshield wipers off. It certainly hasn’t stopped various campus groups at RPI from holding events encouraging others to come and learn about their religion.
All it’s done is make it a bit more of a crime to beat someone up for having a different religion than you, than it is to beat someone up because the person as an individual, has pissed you off.
That said, if one is going to take the stance instead that there was ALREADY a “chilling effect” in place regarding the existing hate crimes law, then we come to my second point.
The Mathew Shepard Act does not make it a crime to say “it’s disgusting and sinful and wrong to commit homosexual acts, and I don’t want to be friends with any of them awful gays… and neither should you.” It only adds extra penalties to the existing prohibition against beating the crap out of your fellow man. Putting aside, remember, whether or not these extra penalties are proper or needed.
The Act, in and of itself does NOTHING even approximating “abridging the freedom of speech.” All it says is basically: “We are taking the official stance that hitting someone on the basis of that person being gay, is a bad bad thing.” Hitting them. Not saying they shouldn’t be married, not saying you don’t want them in your car… just, not effing hitting them.
Now if, as a side effect this causes people to feel that the government is also saying that it’s wrong to talk smack about the gays, well whoop-de do. As it so happens in the United States, where even tho it’s a crime to hit a guy for being black, it’s not a crime to call him the N word. It is if you’re refusing to serve him in a restaurant on that basis… because that’s discrimination, but if you’re a fellow customer, just saying you don’t think the black fellow at the table next to you shouldn’t be getting served isn’t a crime. It’s just in very, very, very, VERY, VERY, VERY, bVERY, VERY, VERY/b poor taste, and will make people think you’re a bigot. (Which you are. Bigot.)
That said… the people who still strongly believe that sort of thing, will still say that sort of thing, because they have the courage of their (misbegotten) convictions (god save them.)
So, if you have the courage of your anti-gay convictions, then it shouldn’t be a problem for you to continue speaking out against them, whether or not it’s the popular thing to do./lj-cut
No one said your Freedom of Speech was going to be easy.