Thursday, July 8, 2010

Paying for your free speech

Lots of catching up on what happened while I was gone…

A couple noteworthy Supreme rulings at the end their season.
There was a referendum on the all-but name domestic partner law this past November in Washington state. That got onto the ballot through petitions. The anti-gay crowd has been battling to keep the names of the petition signers a secret. In an 8-1 ruling the Supremes said that public disclosure guarantees that the signatures were valid and it promotes transparency and accountability in the electoral process better than any other way. The sole dissent was Thomas who saw name disclosure as a "severe burden" on speech -- the anti-gay crowd claimed those horrible gays would retaliate -- and "People are intelligent enough to evaluate the merits of a referendum without knowing who supported it." With the way business interests and GOP cronies lie? Sure they are. A commenter notes there is a difference between freedom of speech and the freedom from being caught lying.

The signatures won't be released soon, however. The Supremes were asked the question, "Is the Washington state law that requires signature disclosure constitutional?" There is a second question, not asked of the Supremes, "Are the details of this particular Washington referendum sufficient (has enough of a threat of retaliatory violence) that an exception should be made?" Success in making that point is slim because there is no evidence, no actual threats of violence. It appears other anti-gay allies are bailing out of the case.

The Hastings College of Law in Calif. has a non-discrimination policy and requires all student groups who want official college representation to also follow that policy. The Christian Legal Society requires is members to take an oath saying they think being gay is really nasty, so sued the college for that official blessing (plus the money that comes with it). The Supremes said the college is right. Translation: You may say what you want and have whatever rules you want for your club, but that doesn't mean I have to fund it or give it my blessing.

Alas, the ruling was 5-4. Too many justices continue to buy into the line that non-discrimination policies are equivalent to blatant anti-religious bias. Yes, the religion of a justice does influence their decisions.

A dissenting thought: Instead of stepping off campus, the Christian Legal Society could drop its membership requirements and "accept all comers" (as the ruling phrases it). That means a determined group of gays (or even Jews) could request membership, then vote themselves into leadership positions and jettison the "Christian" of the group's name. No group would be able to maintain a particular identity. Say goodbye to the Feminists Association, the Jewish Law Students Association, and the Environmental Law Society.

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