Thursday, March 3, 2011

Free speech works both ways

Though most Americans find the Phelps clan and their Westboro Baptist Church to be disgusting the Supremes rightly said free speech applies to them. Such speech may occasionally hurt, but being hurt is not a reason to shut it down.

Thee is a reason to support the ruling. For a few election cycles now the anti-gay forces have claimed that if gays are allowed to marry (or get equal rights to employment, or protected from bullying) than anti-gay pastors will be pulled from their pulpits and silenced. We now have proof that won’t happen. If the Supremes won’t silence the Phelps clan they won’t silence anyone.

There are, however, some who are wondering if the ruling isn’t about free speech but the shielding a speaker from the consequences of that speech.

The Ohio Senate passed a bill the GOP claims is essential to balancing the state budget. Included is a limit on collective bargaining rights (perhaps not as severe as in Wisconsin). It also contains a long, rambling section that a marriage may only be between one man and one woman. This is in addition to a draconian marriage protection amendment. So why put it in a budget bill? It strips domestic partnership benefits from university and city workers across the state. Absolutely anything to save a buck.

I’ve written before (probably a long time ago) about researchers in Germany in the 1870s realized that some men had sexual attractions towards other men. These men appeared to be mentally healthy. This research resulted in the term homosexual. Robert Beachy has written the book Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity tracing why that research was undertaken.

In 1871 Germany was unified from hundreds of separate political units into one country. As the central government was created the Imperial Criminal Code included a law prohibiting gay male sex. That law triggered sustained research into same-sex sexuality and eroticism. Germany was on the forefront of such research until the Nazis came to power.

Photographer J Henry Fair aimed his camera at the pollution and scars that result from various mining and clearcutting operations. He has now published them in a book The Day After Tomorrow: Images of Our Earth in Crisis. The photos are both weirdly beautiful and disturbing. Here is an interview of Fair and a photo gallery of shots from the book.

No comments:

Post a Comment