Maggie Gallagher: The Chilling of Our First Amendment Rights

Maggie Gallagher

I am out of town all week attending a conference in Bozeman, Montana. That’s the reason updates have been infrequent.

Source: National Review Online | Maggie Gallagher

The First Amendment is more than a legal guarantee. It is a culture — a key American value — which holds that in a decent and free society, law-abiding citizens should not face reprisals for speaking up with civility for the moral good as they see it.

Sen. Chuck Grassley’s remarkable opening statement in today’s Senate hearing on a bill to repeal DOMA called attention to a very serious and growing intolerance directed at Americans who believe marriage is the union of husband and wife:

The minority very much hoped to call a witness today at this hearing to testify in support of DOMA. I am sure she would have done an excellent job.

She declined, however, citing as one reason the threats and intimidation that have been leveled against not only her but her family as a result of her public support for DOMA. She will continue to write on this subject, but will no longer speak publicly about it. This chilling of First Amendment rights is unacceptable.

When Chris Johnson, a reporter from the Washington Blade, called and asked if that woman was me, I was at first amused. No, of course not. I am not refusing to make public appearances. I was not invited this time.  

But I could sympathize. I just returned from interviewing a Toronto sportscaster who was fired for tweeting that he believed “in the true and authentic meaning of marriage.” Next week, I will go to North Carolina to interview another man whose contract was terminated when the HR head of his company found out he had written against gay marriage.  

The death threats and hateful mail New York state senator Rev. Ruben Diaz says he has received are not unusual. Whole professions are in the process of being closed to anyone who espouses — and acts — on the view that marriage is the union of husband and wife.

Fox News is not covering this. Conservative media outlets, except for a few beacons such as NR, are virtually silent.

The underlying truth that “pro-equality” Republicans need to understand is this: They are aiding and abetting a political movement that, at this point in history, seeks to make traditional Christian views on sex and marriage unacceptable in the public square — just as racist views on interracial marriage are unacceptable — by heaping scorn and hatred on any American who does something to support marriage as one man and one woman.

The marriage debate is about redefining not only marriage, but the relationship between Judeo-Christian values and the American tradition.

I just wonder what these “pro-equality” conservatives think will be left to conserve after that.


  1. There’s extremists on every side of every issue. Are we expected to vote against gay marriage because there are some radical gay activists out there? If so, are we then expected to vote FOR abortion because a few whack jobs have decided to bomb abortion clinics?

    Of course, Maggie neglected to mention the placard one of her supporters brought to a NOM rally which featured “The Solution to Gay Marriage” followed by a picture of a hangman’s noose:

    Surely, you have better arguments than this drivel. The SCOTUS recently sided with Westboro Baptist, perhaps the most disgusting and vitriolic anti-gay group in America. Free speech isn’t going anywhere in this nation…

    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell :

      So, Tomas, you equate one idiot with a placard with a media corporation actually firing someone for expressing his religious beliefs publicly?

      • Micahel Bauman :

        Of course he does, everything is equal, except some ideas are more equal than others.

      • Dn Mitchell: As a rule of thumb, I think freedom of speech is an almost absolute right, at least in sense that we should not fear civil penalties for expressing our opinions and beliefs. I also generally think that individuals should be free to express their beliefs publicly without reprisal from their place of employment if it’s off the clock. Of course, companies should also be free to fire someone whose publicly expressed views are a potential embarrassment and cost to the company, whether the person is a member of the KKK or NAMBLA. I wouldn’t want a representative from either camp holding a high level position in my company, quite frankly. If they were, they’ve become a liability, no matter how good their “performance” was.

        If you’re referring to the firing of Dr. Frank Turek at Cisco, then by all accounts, no, he should not have been fired as his beliefs were not expressed at work, nor does it appear that those beliefs led towards discriminatory employment practices on his part. I’ve written in support of people in both the private sector and academia who have been fired due to political correctness, and I’m sure I’m not the first one to do so.

        See, when I say I believe in freedom, I mean it. I don’t mean “freedom for everyone and everything I personally agree with”. Unfortunately, given the fierce opposition to ENDA laws and any law that protects a person from being evicted or fired for sexual orientation, I don’t think this is really about “freedom” of anything.

  2. George Patsourakos :

    It is a sad day for America’s freedom of speech, when a person is being harassed with death threats, if he speaks before Congress to support DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). To attempt to deny a person the right to express his opinion that marriage is a union between one man and one woman — by frightening that person with a death threat — completely contradicts the U.S. Constitution, as well as the principles of freedom that America’s founding fathers worked so diligently to attain. Indeed, a person making such a threat needs to be brought to justice by the FBI or other federal law enforcement agency.

  3. I certainly am appalled that, especially in so short a time, it has become nearly impossible to state that marriage is between a man and a woman without facing abuse and ridicule. However, these activists have learned from those who went before them. Before white Christians were forced on the run and we had the power we did exactly the same thing. For how many decades did white “Christians” keep control of things by threatening, or even carrying out, violence in the name of God? I don’t want to see anyone have that position again but I’m sure from their perspective it’s only giving as well as we gave.

  4. I think it’s important to be clear on terminology and call a spade a spade. While I do “believe marriage is the union of husband and wife,” the fact that someone declined to speak when offered the opportunity is not a First Amendment issue. Your premise that “The First Amendment is more than a legal guarantee. It is a culture — a key American value — which holds that in a decent and free society, law-abiding citizens should not face reprisals for speaking up with civility for the moral good as they see it.” is simply not true. It’s true that we have the First Amendment because Americans historically (and, for the most part, modernly—is that a word? Firefox doesn’t underline it, so I guess so) do in fact hold such a value and so amended the Constitution to prohibit the Congress from making laws against it.[1] But the value and the legal guarantees of the First Amendment are not the same thing.[2]

    In point of fact, while the threats and intimidation she faced were despicable (and possibly criminal, under other statues) acts, the woman who refused to speak is the exact opposite of a First Amendment curb: far from Congress “abridging the freedom of speech,” they gave her the opportunity to speak.

    Regarding your other examples, there’s certainly a discussion to be had about whether employers should be barred from taking action against employees for statements made off the job (or even statements made on the job, but which do not pertain to their duties)—written properly, I think I’d support such a measure. But the fact is, in a lot of places, you can be fired “for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all.” I’d be interested to see if there’s any case law on whether a firing for statements made in defense of marriage would constitute discrimination on the basis of religion under Title VII.

    [1] Of course, even that has never been seen as a legal absolute, as witness slander and libel laws.
    [2] Also, I quibble with your apparent assertion that only “law-abiding” citizens should not face reprisals for their speech.

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