Only yesterday we looked at a new law in California which could impose fines or even jail time for healthcare workers who refuse to refer to transgender patients using the pronouns which are opposite of their actual gender. At the time I wondered if that could possibly withstand a legal challenge, but that may not be their biggest problem. A new poll from the Cato Institute and YouGov examines a number of different speech issues in our country, and among others it finds that folks are not at all in favor of punishing people for refusing to indulge in unscientific redefinitions of gender. (The Atlantic)
51 percent of Democrats would favor a law “requiring people to refer to a transgender person by their preferred gender pronouns and not according to their biological sex.” Majorities of African Americans, Latinos, whites, and Republicans disagreed.
That’s fairly remarkable. If you limit the pool only to self proclaimed Democrats, you can only find 51% who agree with the idea. And more shockingly, majorities of the two major racial demographics which the Dems rely on at the polls – African Americans and Latinos – are opposed to the idea. As for whites and anyone not registering Democrat? Fuggedaboutit.
The Democrats are playing with fire here. Or perhaps playing with dynamite is a better analogy, and the GOP is more than willing to hand them a book of matches.
Some other results from this poll are a bit more alarming, though, particularly when it comes to basic knowledge about the Constitution and the law. A majority of all Americans and an undefined “supermajority” of black respondents agreed with the statement, “society can prohibit hate speech and still protect free speech.” If that’s not frightening enough, 38% of blacks and 45% of Latinos wrongly believe it’s already illegal to “make a racist statement in public.”
There are some interesting figures in there about who should or shouldn’t be fired from their jobs for offensive speech. The only majority they could find in favor of firing a business executive over comments they make was for people who publicly opined that African Americans are “genetically inferior” to whites. For all other offensive opinions, a majority didn’t believe they should be terminated.
My major problem with that section of the poll is that it conflates the idea of government suppressing speech and employers regulating the behavior of workers on the job. For example, if you get a job as a barista at a coffee shop, you may be instructed to greet customers by saying, “Good morning! May I help you?” You remain perfectly free to size up the first customer of the day and say, “So, what do you want, jackass?” The government can not come and arrest you for that. But your employer can make sure that you only say it outside of their establishment in the future by firing you. That’s the key difference.
There’s plenty more I’ll leave for you to go read for yourself, but I wanted to close with a few of the college speaker choices. Who should be allowed to speak at a school? These are the percentages who said “no,” they should not be allowed on campus.
A speaker who advocates for violent protests (81 percent)
A speaker who plans to publicly reveal the names of illegal immigrants attending the college (65 percent)
A speaker who says the Holocaust did not occur (57 percent)
A speaker who says all white people are racist (51 percent)
A speaker who says Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to come to the U.S. (50 percent)
A speaker who advocates conversion therapy for gays and lesbians (50 percent)
A speaker who says transgender people have a mental disorder (50 percent)
There’s a lot of intolerance out there still when it comes to college speakers. You can find the rest at the link above, but clearly there’s a lot more education on the First Amendment required around the country.