Progressive speech codes have no place in legislative debate

by | Mar 15, 2024 | Blog, Capitol Review | 1 comment

Remember when Democrats fiercely defended freedom of speech and freedom of expression with few limitations?  That was when Colorado Democrats still had to compete with Republicans for statewide elected offices and legislative majorities.

Having grasped the political upper hand, Democrats are now sadly in thrall to Progressivism and its requisite censorship of dissenters.  Instead of proclaiming, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” Democrats at our State Capitol now practice “free speech for me, but not for thee.”

Consider the prevailing limitations on debate in the Colorado House of Representatives.  Once called “The People’s House,” the chamber majority now shows little regard for core constitutional rights.  Today’s Progressives tolerate dissent only if they can keep it contained in an airtight box where it cannot be heard.

In a recent week, the House members spent several hours debating two bills of utmost priority to Progressives but of dubious importance to Coloradans at large.

House Bill 1039 would allow students to force classroom teachers and other school personnel to call them by whatever name they wish to be identified.  If Mike wants to be known as Michelle, everyone at school must say, “Michelle.”  Mike/Michelle’s parents need not be informed or approve of this decision because some parents don’t think their teenagers possess sufficient life experience to make life-altering decisions like changing gender.  Progressives obviously know better.

Every school in Colorado would be required to adopt a governing policy declaring use of a student’s legal name to be illegal discrimination if the student prefers a non-legal “chosen name.”  A teacher or administrator who does not comply violates the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, so calling a student by the name used by his or her parents could land a teacher in court.

This bill passed the House 41-19.

On the same day, representatives also passed House Bill 1071 to make it easier for convicted felons to legally change their name if they change their gender.  (Notice the theme?)

In a further tilt toward the bizarre, proponents sought to name the bill “Tiara’s law” after a convicted felon formerly known as Duane Antonio Powell but now known as Tiara Latrice Kelley, who has a lengthy criminal record and now performs in “all ages drag shows” that sometimes include children.

During public hearings and in debate, opponents were forbidden by Democratic leadership from using certain words deemed offensive by Progressives, such as:

  • “Deadnaming,” using the former name of someone who later changed their gender and name.
  • “Misgendering,” referring to someone by actual biological sex or former gender rather than by present gender identification or preferred pronouns.

Tiara (she) was Duane (he) when convicted, so quoting the court record verbatim is both deadnaming and misgendering.

  • Using specific words, like “grooming” or “groomer” (to refer to gaining a child’s trust to later abuse the child). This is especially odd since these same Democrats sponsored a bill (now law) which also referenced grooming.

The remedy seems obvious:  Don’t name bills after criminals and drag queens who perform with children.

In a public hearing where citizens can testify, Progressives directed Capitol staff to remove an opponent who didn’t recite the required Progressive incantations.  That’s a disgraceful violation of the people’s right to petition their government.

Let’s be clear: this isn’t simply a matter of being polite.  This is about political speech codes which demand that everyone genuflect to Progressive icons.

The core purpose of our First Amendment is to protect political speech, not stifle it.

Justice Louis Brandeis, a great defender of freedom of speech, understood “that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies.”

Bottom line:  The answer to speech you don’t like is speech you do like.

Imagine the outrage had a former Republican majority sought to prevent Democrats from illustrating arguments with comparisons to fascism, Nazi Germany or the KKK or from recklessly calling any gun they want to ban an “assault weapon.”

Free, open and robust debate are the safety valves of our democratic institutions.  Sacrificing them to satisfy Progressive sensibilities is profoundly misguided.

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