The Supreme Court hits one right in the ten ring, with an 8-0 vote no less: In Major Free Speech Victory, SCOTUS Rules for ‘The Slants’ and Strikes Down Federal Trademark Restriction. Excerpt:
At issue in Matal v. Tam was a federal law prohibiting the registration of any trademark that may “disparage…or bring…into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead.” The Patent and Trademark Office cited this provision in 2011 when it refused to register a trademark in the name of The Slants, thereby denying the band the same protections that federal law extends to countless other musical acts. Justice Samuel Alito led the Court in striking down the censorious rule. “We now hold that this provision violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment,” Alito wrote. “It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”
Justice Alito demonstrated little patience for the federal government’s position. The government’s arguments, Alito observed, boiled down to this: “The Government has an interest in preventing speech expressing ideas that offend.” As Alito noted in response, “that idea strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate.'”
Now, let’s extend that reasoning on to the various hate-speech proposals and campus speech codes out there.
College campuses (campii?) one must note, are overwhelmingly public-funded institutions, and so must comply with the First Amendment. One must also note that this principle doesn’t apply on private property. I’ve been known to tell visitors to the Casa de Animal that there is no First Amendment in my home; say whatever you like, but if you say something I don’t like I have the right to throw you the hell out.
The Imperial government cannot do that. Trademark law is subject to the First Amendment, but the key component of this ruling is Justice Alito’s statement that “Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate.”
This is a good ruling. Hopefully it will be extended in future rulings, as far and as wide as we can make it go. We all live in a free speech zone. It’s called the United States of America, and it’s nice to see the Supreme Court remembers that.