Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

July 21, 2011

Does Gay Marriage Imperil Free Speech?

by Brad Warbiany

One would think that one has very little to do with the other. That is, unless one is Gary Bauer, who seems to be taking a tactic I’ve seen too often out of leftists suggesting that if someone in the private sector wants to fire you for saying something bigoted, that it’s an assault on your freedom of speech.

Recently, Frank Turek, an employee for computer networking firm Cisco Systems, was fired for authoring a book titled “Correct, not Politically Correct: How Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone.” Turek had a stellar work record and never talked about his religious or political views on the job.

But after a homosexual manager at Cisco Googled Turek’s name, learned about his views and complained to a human resources professional at Cisco, Turek was immediately fired.

Also recently, Canadian sportscaster Damian Goddard was fired for declaring his opposition to gay marriage. Rogers Communications fired Goddard after he tweeted his support for Todd Reynolds, a hockey agent, who had earlier voiced his opposition to the activism of Sean Avery , a New York Rangers player who was part of the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign in the lead-up to the same-sex marriage vote in the New York State Legislature.

Now, I don’t know the workplace policies of either corporation, but I would assume that in the first case, Turek violated some section of his employment contract with Cisco. I might call that an overreaction, but I wouldn’t call it a violation of his freedom of speech. It was, rather, an exercise in freedom of association (or, in this case, disassociation). The second case, the sportscaster is a public figure, and I think it’s quite likely that Rogers Communications might believe that his thoughts on gay marriage would impact ratings or the bottom line.

Should either corporation be forced to retain an employee that publicly espouses values — values that I’d call bigoted — inconsistent with those of the corporation? Cisco is a multinational company with highly diverse employees, and it’s quite possible that someone hired to put together leadership seminars [as Kurek was] may not be seen as a leader himself if he publicly advocates legal oppression against people who he is to lead.

But let’s take it a step farther. Let’s assume instead that either Kurek or Goddard were advocating against interracial marriage. Let’s say that Kurek was writing books claiming interracial marriage hurts families, and that the races shouldn’t mix. After all, many of the arguments at the time of Loving v. Virginia were based on religious beliefs. Would Gary Bauer be defending either? I fail to see any difference in principle here — in both cases, one would be arguing against legal equality based upon one owns religious convictions of what defines a proper marriage. And in both cases, the issue at hand LEGALLY [not morally] is whether the state can withhold access to a LEGAL CONTRACT between two adults.

Bauer continues with a slightly more thorny issue:

Same-sex marriage is already having a chilling effect on religious freedom. In states that have legalized civil unions or gay marriage, Catholic adoption agencies have been shuttered or lost their tax-exempt status for refusing to let gay couples adopt children.

Last week in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn affirmed a decision by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services not to renew adoption contracts with Catholic Charities for the same reason because of the state’s law recognizing same-sex civil unions.

This seems like outright state hostility to religion, when viewed through Gary Bauer’s eyes. However, from a legal perspective, the 14th amendment demands equality before the law. If gay marriage is legal, then gays should be allowed the same rights as straights when it comes to adoption. And if an agency looking to work with the state on adoptions refuses to comply with equal protection clauses, those agencies should not get state funding.

Again, this can be greatly simplified if we refer back to other cases of equality before the law. Should adoption agencies be free to take state funds and refuse to allow interracial straight couples to adopt? Should state charter school funds be given to schools which admit white and asian students, but bar blacks and hispanics? The state itself is barred from discrimination in most cases, and while some wholly private organizations can discriminate, state adoption contracts and state school funding are most certainly not wholly private. If a religion wants to work WITH the government, they have to do so on the government’s terms.

I would think that if the arguments were advanced today, Gary Bauer would call the person advocating against interracial marriage a bigot. I think if someone were arguing for re-segregating the schools, Gary Bauer would call that person a bigot. A Gary Bauer of 50 years ago, I’m not so sure.

Of course, a Gary Bauer of only 3 years ago might give us a different tone:

Last week, a few days before Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to America, TV talk show host Bill Maher went on a profanity-laden tirade against the Pope and the Catholic Church. On his HBO Real Time program, Maher claimed that the Pope “used to be a Nazi,” and called the Catholic Church a “child-abusing religious cult” and “the Bear Stearns of organized pedophilia.”

The result: (Cue sound of crickets chirping.)

Maher believes he can get away with such overt bigotry under the pretext of “creative license.” As Maher said in his non-apology apology: “Now first of all, it was a joke, during a comedic context…”

And when the Catholic League confronted HBO about why it continues to give Maher airtime, the station insisted that his anti-Catholicism was a matter of “creative freedom.” Needless to say, such “creative freedom” would not be extended to those who make racist, anti-gay or anti-Muslim remarks. Ask Don Imus.

Based on a *very* charitable reading of that op-ed, one can potentially infer that Bauer things nobody should be fired for bigoted remarks, and that he’s merely upset at the double standard of the left. It seems, based on my reading of his article, that his concern with the double standard is that Bill Maher isn’t punished, not that right-wingers who make bigoted statements are.

Gary Bauer is not fighting for religious freedom, he’s fighting for the right to espouse bigoted politics with no social cost. Sorry, Gary, that’s just not how it works. You might not think that treating gays like they’re not worthy of the same legal rights is bigotry, but I’m afraid that an ever-growing portion of the country disagrees with you on that. If we call you on it, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost your right to free speech. It means we think you’re a bigot.

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  • Ray Tom

    How about you just chill out and go about your business and stop asking government to rush in and prevent people you don’t even know from doing something that doesn’t effect you? Anyway, since when do conservatives decry the decisions of a business owner like in this case? Then you turn around and beg for government laws to help you stop other people from doing what they want. You’re not conservatives. You’re dominionists.

  • tkc

    Huh? Where is the support for the government rushing in to do something?

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    tkc,

    Ray obviously didn’t read [or didn't understand] the post.

    Ray,

    I am in support of gay marriage. The purpose of this post was criticizing Gary Bauer for his confused and ridiculous claims about the nature of free speech.

  • Phil

    Clearly, Brad, you have the absolute right to your opinion that not allowing same sex marriage is government discrimination. But I believe that it does not necessarily follow that anyone who opposes same sex marriage is a bigot.
    I object to same sex marriage. Not because I am homophobic. As the good old saying goes, some of my friends are homosexual. (In this case it is accurate.)
    My objection is based purely on the word “marriage”. The term as used in the sense of viewing two individual humans as a single entity always, without exception (at least to my knowledge) has referred to a couple of folks of opposite gender. Thousands of laws have been written that deal with “marriage” under that assumption. It seems to me that those who support redefining marriage to include couples of the same sex have the burden of showing that none of those thousands of laws will be rendered nonsensical or, even worse, discriminatory in some other fashion.
    I would not contest a series of laws written for “civil unions” that would provide rights for couples of any gender, that would be appropriate for allowing them to have the same “privileges” as opposite gender couples.
    If there were no existing laws governing couple’s being united in any fashion whatsoever, then I believe that any laws written should not be discriminatory. But that simply is not the situation. There are laws. And they have built-in assumptions of opposite sex couples.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Phil,

    My objection is based purely on the word “marriage”.

    I personally believe that government shouldn’t sanction “marriage” at all. Let government give same-sex or opposite-sex couples a “civil union”, and leave the term “marriage” to the churches.

    Barring that, though, if the government offers the legal sanction, I believe it’s discriminatory to not offer it to same-sex couples. Will there be some messy years of case law as some of the issues work themselves out? Of course. But that’s true any time laws are changed. That’s why we have courts.

    The fact that it’s not perfectly easy and clean is not an argument against offering the same legal rights and privileges to same-sex couples that are offered to opposite-sex couples: it’s a cop-out. It’s a profoundly “conservative” argument that says that we shouldn’t change anything until we can predict in excruciating detail ALL of the effects of the change. But we can NEVER predict all of the effects. Sometimes we have to ask whether the current law is right or wrong. In this case I’d contend that it’s wrong, and if we change it, the messy work of hammering out the details is simply a price we pay for righting a wrong.

  • Phil

    Brad,
    My primary point was objecting to labeling someone a bigot simply because they oppose some proposed political action. Secondarily, I was citing myself as an example of a non-bigot, and trying to explain my reasons for opposing a sweeping reversal of all historic precedent.
    Again, you have every right to believe that your preferred approach to change is the better one. And I promise not to call you a bigot, or a [quote] “libertarian” or question your motives in any way, just because we differ.
    I might even agree that there should be no laws whatsoever regarding marriage, but I would have to think that one through much more thoroughly than I am prepared to do for purposes of this particular blog.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    Phil,

    I don’t believe that everyone who advocates against gay marriage is, by definition, a bigot. I believe your position is wrong (for the reasons I advocated), but it sounds as if you’re coming at it more from a conservative point of view where we shouldn’t necessarily make wholesale changes that might cause big downstream negative effects unless we’re sure the world can deal with those effects.

    I *do*, however believe that bigotry is one of the most common causes of holding the anti-gay-marriage position. As with many other positions, many people who come to an ideological position from a place of bigotry use plausible rational arguments to justify their position.

    Reams of social psychology studies can show that people can rationalize their way into the position they already want to hold quite easily. Breaking out of that psychological tendency is *VERY* hard to do, *even* when you’re aware the phenomenon exists. I’m sure I hold positions I’ve rationalized myself into, even though I try very hard to guard against it and to evaluate evidence on its merits.

    However, all that aside, I think the target of my entire post was Gary Bauer. And I believe him, specifically, to be a bigot.

  • Phil

    Brad,
    in re your final paragraph, you have formed an opinion based on reading something that I admit I have not read. I hope that is the basis for your believing him to be a bigot.
    I agree wholeheartedly that all humans have the tendency to form beliefs and then look for reasons to support them. I agree also that it is very difficult not to do that.
    If all you mean by “conservative” is cautious skepticism of wholesale changes, then I agree that mine is a conservative approach.
    Thank you for your attention. I’ve enjoyed the discussion.

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