Marriage as Hate-Speech Case Filed with US Supreme Court

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The Pro-Family Law Center has challenged Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and United States District Court rulings finding the terms "marriage," "natural family," and "family values" to be hate-speech. The case involves the threat of termination of employment by the City of Oakland against two of its employees who used such words on an employee bulletin board.

The Pro-Family Law Center of Southern California filed a free speech case on behalf of the City of Oakland's Good News Employee Association with the United States Supreme Court on Monday. The petition for certiori requests that the Supreme Court undo prior rulings of the Ninth Circuit and United States District Court which held that certain speech by the petitioners could be censored by the City of Oakland. ( ).

In United States District Court, Case No. CV-03-03542-VRW, the California federal courts concluded that the terms "marriage," "natural family," and "family values" could be censored in a municipal workplace as hate-speech and in the interest of "administrative efficiency." ( Specifically, the City of Oakland banned the use of these terms on postings made to an open bulletin board provided to employees during the same-sex marriage debate in California during 2002 through 2003.

According to Richard D. Ackerman, lead counsel for the petitioners, "With the upcoming Presidential Election in 2008, it is imperative that all persons be able to speak out on the issues of the day. This ruling has had the practical effect of silencing hundreds, if not thousands, of City of Oakland employees who simply wish to talk about marriage and family values. To the extent that this ruling has been shared by Oakland with other cities, there is a huge risk that these rulings are being treated as precedent by other cities across the nation. In fact, one of the defendants is presently in charge of the Washington DC school district."

The suit arose in late 2002 when the petitioners chose to create the Good News Employee Association in response to alleged Bible-bashing by ranking city officials and open access given to various other groups over the City's e-mail and bulletin board systems. When the petitioners tried to express their views through a flyer posted on an open bulletin board, they were allegedly censored. The other groups are allowed, to this day, to publish whatever they'd like on the bulletin board and on e-mail systems.

According to materials provided to the United States Supreme Court, one quote from an e-mail among city employees and officials said, "I personally think the good book (Bible) needs some updating" along with other alleged attacks on Christian values. Nothing was done about this e-mail from a sitting city council member.

Other city-approved e-mails, during the same time period, announced the establishment of an "altar" for Day of the Dead, a celebration of 150 years of Jewish history in Oakland, "National Coming Out Day," "the first anti-Iraq war teach-in sponsored by a city government anywhere in the U.S.," and a "First Annual Holiday Mixer" for the Gay-Straight Employee Alliance.

The petitioners' flyer, which gave rise to the lawsuit, stated:

"Preserve Our Workplace With Integrity Good News Employee Association is a forum for people of Faith to express their views on the contemporary issues of the day.

With respect for the Natural Family, Marriage and Family Values.

The publication of these words was met with a direct threat of termination from employment by the City of Oakland and resulted in the filing of the lawsuit with the United States District Court. To this day, the petitioners are banned from using these words in free speech forums set up by Oakland for its employees.

The Pro-Family Law Center expects to get a determination by the end of summer regarding the High Court's decision whether to review the case.


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