Friday, September 19, 2008

Since when is the ACLU against free speech?

The American Civil Liberties Union filed an official complaint on behalf of two gay men who were called names at a McDonald's in Louisville, Kentucky. The group has cited the city's "Fairness" ordinance as grounds for the complaint:

Louisville has a local human rights ordinance which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public accommodations such as restaurants.

Now obviously the McDonald's in question has pretty low employment standards if they have a cashier who calls customers names--for whatever reason. But since when does the ACLU file complaints against someone's exercise of free (albeit hateful) speech? The ACLU has always defended any kind of expression on the grounds that, however distasteful it may be, it is protected under the First Amendment.

This is an issue that, if it involved any other issue than gay rights, the ACLU would be defending the McDonald's, not the two gay men. The ACLU has defended the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi party.

Either the ACLU is misinterpreting the Fairness Ordinance, in which case their complaint will have not effect, or they are interpreting it correctly, in which case the ordinance violates the First Amendment (at least according to the groups traditional interpretation). In either case, it makes you wonder why the group is going back on its previous commitment to free speech.

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