Before freedom to marry, clashes on free speech

As reported by Adam Liptak for The New York Times:

"That sound in the distance at the Supreme Court these days is the debate over the freedom to marry.

"It will be a couple of years until that central issue in the culture wars reaches the court. But two early skirmishes — if not proxy battles — arrived this month. Both are fights over the First Amendment ground rules for the debate.

"On Monday, the justices considered the rights of a Christian student group to bar gay members from leadership positions. Next week, the court will hear arguments about whether the names of people who signed a petition to place an anti-gay-rights measure on the ballot in Washington State should be kept secret.

... "Evan Wolfson, the executive director of Freedom to Marry, a group that supports the freedom to marry, said its opponents were using a sort of rhetorical jujitsu. 'When they pour tens of millions of dollars to strip rights away in the Constitution, that’s just speech,' Mr. Wolfson said. 'When people don’t like it, that’s harassment.'

"A brief filed by four political scientists analyzed the evidence on harassment, drawing a distinction between financial supporters of Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that did away with marriage equality there, and people who merely signed petitions to place an issue on the ballot.

“'More than a million names of signers of petitions for referenda and initiatives opposing the freedom to marry have been posted on the Internet,' the political scientists’ brief said. 'Yet there is no evidence that any of these signers has faced any threat of retaliation or harassment by reason of that disclosure.'” ...

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