Six Consequences the Coalition [in Support of Proposition 8] Has Identified if Proposition 8 Fails – Fifth Consequence
5. Ministers who preach against same-sex marriages may be sued for hate speech and risk government fines. It already happened in Canada, a country that legalized gay marriage. A recent California court held that municipal employees may not say: “traditional marriage,” or “family values” because, after the same-sex marriage case, it is “hate speech.”
Thurston/Response: Of course anyone can be “sued” for anything, but no minister has been convicted of a crime in Canada or the United States for preaching against same-sex marriages. The Owens case, on which this statement is based, was brought well before gay marriage was legal in Canada and did not involve a minister, but a private citizen. In that case, a man named Hugh Owens produced bumper stickers and took out an ad that depicted two stick figures holding hands, covered by a circle and a slash, along with a reference to a passage in Leviticus that says a man engaging in homosexual activity “shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.” The lower court ruled that this amounted to hate speech, but the decision was overturned on review. The current Canadian law on hate propaganda excludes any speech if it is spoken during a private conversation or if the person uttering the speech “is attempting in good faith to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject.” Thus, even ministers who preach against same-sex marriages in Canada have no risk of legal liability or government fees.
This would never be an issue in the United States because we have far more liberal freedom of speech and religious laws than does Canada. There have been no hate speech lawsuits in Massachusetts, which has been a gay marriage state for four years.
The description of the recent California case is another fabrication. This case is Good News Employee Association v. Hicks, which was decided before the Supreme Court legalized gay marriages and so it, too, has nothing to do with Proposition 8. The plaintiffs in that case were evangelical Christians (not homosexuals) who posted flyers around the offices of the Oakland Community and Economic Development Agency promoting their “Good News Association” and calling on those who read the flyer to “preserve our workplace with integrity… with respect for the natural family, marriage and family values.” In other words, this group was promoting the idea of ridding workplace of gay people – a blatantly homophobic message and highly offensive not only to several gay people who worked there but to heterosexual co-workers as well. The supervisors removed the flyer. The Good News people sued, claiming their rights of free speech were violated. The court found that the agency was entitled to eliminate the workplace disruption the flyers were causing and noted that there were many other ways for this group to promote their message without resorting to such offensive tactics.
This case does not hold that municipal employees are prohibited from saying “traditional marriage” or “family values” and it has nothing to do with gay marriage, or ministers preaching, or Proposition 8. Indeed, the court specifically found that there were many other ways for these people to get their message out without disrupting the workplace by creating an atmosphere of persecution.