There comes a point where the woke brigades succeed in getting elected officials to do their bidding to a ridiculous degree. We’ve apparently now crossed that bridge in New York State. Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill into law that is so blatantly unconstitutional that he openly admitted it in his signing statement, but he still signed it anyway. The new law bans the sale of confederate flags, Nazi flags or other “symbols of hate” on public property. The unconstitutional nature of such a law based on freedom of speech should have been obvious to any freshman in high school. Cuomo conceded that the measure might need a couple of “technical fixes” before very long. (New York Post)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law aimed at banning the sale of “hate symbols” such as the Confederate Flag or the Swastika on state property — even while admitting the new edict might clash with the First Amendment and be struck down as unconstitutional.
The new law — effective immediately — prohibits the sale of hate symbols on public grounds including state and local fairs, and also severely limits their display unless deemed relevant to serving an educational or historical purpose.
But Cuomo said the rule likely needs “certain technical changes” so the Empire State doesn’t get caught treading upon free speech protections codified in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Cuomo said the law was intended to “safeguard New Yorkers from the fear-installing effects of these abhorrent symbols.” Apparently, he feels that the residents of his state are such a bunch of hothouse lilies that they’ll be rushing to their fainting couches if they see or hear something they disagree with.
When asked about the patently unconstitutional nature of the law, the Governor responded by saying that his legal team “will be reviewing the bill in consultation with the state Legislature to make a possible amendment.” Not for nothing, Governor, but isn’t that the sort of thing one would normally do before you sign a bill if there are obvious questions about its validity?
Beyond the speech suppression issues, the wording of the bill is so ambiguous as to be unenforceable even if it survived a court challenge. You can read the full text of it here. On state property, it bans the sale or display of “any symbols of hate or any similar image” unless it’s being used for historical or educational purposes. The definition of what they mean by a symbol of hate “shall include, but not be limited to, symbols of white supremacy, neo-Nazi ideology or the Battle Flag of the Confederacy.”
By including the phrase “but not be limited to,” they could include any symbology they felt like since they don’t have an official definition of a “symbol of hate” and can’t provide a comprehensive list. Sure, you can say that the swastika is an easy target. But how about a Blue Lives Matter banner? I’ve seen social justice warriors calling that a hate symbol. The same goes for “All Lives Matter.” Shall we include any image of a human hand making the “okay” gesture? Hell… let’s just ban everything that the current party in power doesn’t like or agree with.
Cuomo has been in this game long enough to know that there is no fix that will make this law survive a challenge. At this point, he’s really just phoning it in. He signed it as a signal to his liberal supporters to show how woke he is, knowing that after it is inevitably shot down he can just shrug his shoulders and tell them that he at least tried to “do the right thing.”
The First Amendment’s protections are almost always only used to protect unpopular speech because the government generally doesn’t try to shut down popular speech. There are still many people who respect and fly the confederate flag no matter how you may feel about it personally. I would hope that Nazi symbology isn’t nearly as much of a hot item on people’s Christmas shopping lists, but flags with swastikas on them are still available for those who like Nazis, I guess. (And my browser history turns into even more of a pile of hot garbage because I just had to go check and make sure you really can order Nazi flags. It turns out you can, though I won’t include a link here.)
I can’t imagine it taking very long for somebody to challenge this and the law won’t survive for a New York Minute in any courtroom with a sane judge. But until then, Andrew Cuomo gets to have his moment in the sun so he can impress the social justice brigade. Thanks for wasting all of our time, Andy.