Freedom? Safety?

You often hear “social conservatives” decry what they see as an infringement on their right to free speech. They claim that being called a bigot for espousing racist or homophonic or sexist speech has a chilling effect on the expression of their views.

Leaving aside whether or not this is in fact a good thing, freedom from speech has never been freedom from consequences. You say gay people are sinners, I am entitled to claim that the Christianity that you so loudly proclaim is a sham. The truism that the answer to bad speech is to answer with good speech still carries weight in some circles.

Furthermore, the First Amendment was not intended to be about individual response to speech. The amendment prohibited government action. Unless you incite violence or use your speech to otherwise plan or abet crime, the government isn’t going to show up on your doorstep and haul you off to Leavenworth or San Quentin or their local equivalents.

Supposing, though, that their argument had some minimal merit…

Within my lifetime, in places where I have lived, grave consequences attached to being gay. People who supported gay rights, or (God forbid!) outed themselves, were labeled as “perverts.”

There were people who lost jobs. Who lost families. Who were beaten.

Who died.

Where was their free speech? Where were those rights which social conservatives claim belong to all Americans? Being called a bigot is a far cry from the dangers coming out could pose. A component of free speech has to be safety from harm.

Freedom of speech for me but not for thee is no way to run a civilized society.

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