Ga. Tech free speech battle focuses on anti-gay speech

Unlike UNCG where just last year a major free speech controversy and battle took place over so-called ‘free speech zones,’ the free speech battle at Georgia Tech, which has made its way into the federal court system, focuses on a specific type of speech, that being anti-gay speech.

I was against the free speech zones at UNCG and joined in on the fight to rid them from our campus. I thought that having ‘zones’ for speech was wrong and unconstitutional (numerous courts have proven this).

In the debate over the occurances at Georgia Tech, however, I’m finding it hard to take a side. I support the right for all people and all students to have freedom of speech, but as a gay man I also think that people shouldn’t be allowed to hurt or harm other people. I guess if any anti-gay language is being pushed around the Georgia Tech campus it must be political. I can’t imagine that a school, or even a federal court for that matter, would allow people to use harassing language to harm people.

The lawsuit against Georgia Tech is being pushed by the anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund. Just knowing that bit of information is enough to tell me that this is, indeed, a case with anti-gay overtones. That scenario becomes much clearer when you take into consideration that the Alliance Defense Fund has included in the lawsuit objections to Georgia Tech’s Safe Space program for LGBT students.

I’m hoping that the judges in these cases will be able to strike a good balance between freedom of speech and protection of the vulnerable. I’m hoping that Georgia Tech might be able to continue on its track of making its campus a safe place for all students, of course including LGBT students. Finally, I hope that the College Republicans there are smart enough to know the difference between political speech and hateful and bigoted speech. I hope they choose their words carefully and I hope they remember that we are all human and we all have to live here together.

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6 Responses to “Ga. Tech free speech battle focuses on anti-gay speech”
  1. Ryan says:

    I probably haven’t read as much about it as you have, but from what I understand, this was not just about anti-gay speech, it was about anything that might offend someone, and only applied to residence halls.

    Also, I believe a judge has already ruled on this and sided with the students. Moreoever, he put the University’s speech codes under judicial observation for the next five years, meaning if they want to change any of it, it has to be court-approved.

    Just because the ADF is a conservative Christian group doesn’t automatically mean this was an anti-gay thing, either. They were the driving force behind the Alpha Iota Omega case at Chapel Hill a few years ago which was about religious discrimination. My CRs here based our case against UNCG on that one, and if I recall correctly, you argued against us as being anti-gay for some reason as well.

  2. Matt says:

    The UNC-Chapel Hill Alpha Iota Omega case also dealt with the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Christian fraternity wanted both the right to keep out non-Christians and openly gay people. It was not simply just religious discrimination.

    Last year I argued that the change in the UNCG non-discrimination policy as it applies to student groups, allowing groups to limit membership if it is a religious or political group could lead to discrimination intended to keep out LGBT people.

    For example, the UNCG College Republicans could say that in order to be a member one must uphold the entire platform of the Republican Party, including support for a Constitutional amendment banning recognition of marriage for same-sex couples. Of course, many LGBT people (even if they are Republican) might not support that particular portion of the platform. If the UNCG CR membership requirements were construed in the way I stated just now, many, if not almost all, LGBT people would be effectively banned from the group.

    On the same level a Christian group could limit membership to those people who uphold the literal interpretation of the Scripture, including the belief that homosexuality is an abomination. Even though the official membership policy wouldn’t say “No homosexuals,” the practical effect of the membership policy would be to keep out LGBT people.

    The Ga. Tech case is indeed a case with anti-gay overtones. These two students who sued did so because they might get in trouble for stating their beliefs that being gay is an abomination, etc. etc. etc.

    I believe that is anti-gay. I don’t think I’m an abomination and evil and sinful just because I’m gay. I think that any person who says that is anti-gay and using such language to promote prejudice and discrimination. At the same time, students do have the right to free speech, so long as that speech isn’t something along the lines of (legally defined) harassment.

    This is why, in the post, I say that I am honestly having a hard time siding with either end of the debate currently going on at Ga. Tech. I can see both sides, probably because I do support free speech, but also because this specific speech in this case is speech that chills me and speech to which I object.

    You’ll notice, however, that I never said anything about the judge. That is because I’m just not forming an opinion about the policy which was struck down. I’m not going to say whether it was right or wrong. I’m just going to accept the judge’s ruling for what it is: law (sort of). Whether I like or don’t like what the judge ruled on has no effect on the fact that he still issued a specific ruling… a ruling that can either be followed or appealed.

  3. DJ says:

    Free speech should be like shooting a gun. It’s ok to shoot the gun unless you aim it at a group of people or someone in particular.

    I am very much a proponent of free speech. However, more and more, people are using free speech as excuse to single out and condemn various groups of people that have differing points of view. That is where I draw the line.

    In a day and time when our personal freedoms are slowly eroding, the freedom to speak our minds is even more important, but not at the expense of someone else’s freedom to live life without prejudice and ridicule.

  4. Natasha Sell says:

    I understand why you would be concerned with this Matt, but it’s important to remember that if we restrict one type of free speech, all of a sudden it is going to snowball into limiting all types of free speech. That is where anti-hate crime legislation would come in, because there is a difference between ranting and truly hating.

  5. Matt says:

    Thanks Natasha… and I think I realize the point you are making, which is why I haven’t really complained about the ruling. I just think that this may be an attempt by the Alliance Defense Fund to push their horribly misguided and hateful agenda and I’m worried that the “speech” will end up being harmful and dangerous instead of your everyday freedom of speech outspokenness.

  6. Matt says:

    DJ… thanks for your comment too and I apologize it got stuck in moderation. I think you make a good point, especially “I am very much a proponent of free speech. However, more and more, people are using free speech as excuse to single out and condemn various groups of people that have differing points of view. That is where I draw the line.”

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