FREE SPEECH, GAY RIGHTS

There is a troubling aspect to the otherwise laudable campaign to provide basic civil and legal equality to gay citizens in this country and around the world. That aspect is the attempt to prevent or even criminalize the expression of hostility to homosexuality, or gay rights, or indeed any other form of anti-gay speech. This is inimical to the principles of freedom on which the campaign for gay rights must rest. For centuries, the First Amendment was the only security for gay people; without freedom of speech, there would have been no gay rights movement. The idea that that movement would now attempt to restrict the rights of our opponents is truly disgraceful. You see it in Canada, and there is a recent grotesque example in England. It seems to me that gay groups need to end their silence about this and rigorously defend the free speech rights of our opponents, as well as their right to practice their religious faith in any way they see fit, and to proselytize within the law as aggressively as they want. We need to defend the free association rights of groups like the St Patrick’s Day parade organizers and even the Boy Scouts, however repugnant their views of gay people. Words cannot harm people; in fact, because those in favor of gay equality are telling the truth, we have every incentive to magnify and extend the debate. Silencing opponents is a sign of weakness, doubt and intolerance. Gay groups can and should do better.

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