What should we tolerate in the name of free speech?

A topic dominating the media in Australia is free speech and anti – discrimination laws, both when talking about multiculturalism and the same – sex marriage plebiscite. Currently in Australia, there are a number of laws in each State and Territory protecting people on the basis of characteristics, such as race, sexuality, gender, carer status, relationship status and other grounds (Racial Discrimination Act (1975), the Anti – Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) 1977, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, among others.The Anti – Discrimination Act and Sex Discrimination Act in NSW, currently prohibit discrimination, harrassment, villification, etc on the gay and transgender community. Tasmania’s anti – discrimination also protects LGBT people from discrimination from public services and employment against the LGBTQ+ community.

Due to issues surrounding multiculturalism, the fear of radical Islam and the dropped case against Archbishop Julian Porteous last year and other events, anti – dupiscrimination laws have come under increased scrutiny. In light of the case against Archbishop Porteous, there have been calls from the Australian Christian Lobby to have anti – discrimination laws that protect the LGBTQ community to be scaled back while the plebiscite debate is underway. Columnist for the Australian, Sharri Markson has publicly condemned the plebiscite, arguing that it was giving a license to spread homophobia.

 

If you asked me ten years ago about this, I admit I would have said unequivocally that under NO circumstances should anti – discrimination laws – including those that protect the LGBT community should EVER be scaled back and NO ONE should EVER be exempt from such laws.

Now?

I’m kind of torn. As a GSM (gender/ sexuality minority) and someone with a disability, I would love it if minorities didn’t had to feel attacked, and, to be honest, I wish the lives of LGBTQ+ people weren’t up for such fierce, and, quite frankly, sometimes hurtful ‘debate’.

However, silencing debate – especially on controversial issues, such as same – sex marriage, I fear, will only backfire. It won’t stop opponents of the LGBTQ community, it will only make some of them bite back even harder. Frankly, I think it’s happened in countries, especially the US, where conservatives felt like the SCOTUS ruling on same – sex marriage in 2015, have bitten back with a vengeance – one notable example is Arizona pastor who said he ‘wasn’t sad’ about what happened in Orlando. There has reportedky been backlash with PayPal, Apple and YouTube cancelling his acounts (YouTube must’ve backtracked because his videos can still be seen on the site – including the one about Orlando.

I’m not saying that the above (and extreme) example is right, or that it is a view shared by most opponents of same – sex marriage. What I’m wondering is whether it’s helpful for the LGBTQ+ if such people like Anderson, or even less extreme examples are silenced by the law.

Should we tolerate such views in a democracy? Can we fight back without relying on the law to help us? And, how much should us in the LGBTQ+ community simply… I guess… tolerate?

What are your thoughts?

 

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