Speech codes: The offense against LGBT people that no one seems to notice


Lydia McGrew performs a masterful analysis of events and reactions relating to a professor shutting down pro-natural marriage statements in class. Please read her post for the whole story and her insightful comments. I have just one or two things to add.

She quotes a blogger, MarquettePhilosopher, who says, “I am in full support of Marquette’s Harassment policy and Harassment training, which, as I pointed out, clearly states that there is zero tolerance for comments that are hurtful to homosexuals.” The reason for this is that he or she “has an overwhelming concern for marginalized others and is committed to fostering a safe environment for members of marginalized groups to learn in my classroom.

This incident could actually have been played out in any of dozens of colleges and universities, whose speech codes severely limit opinions students and faculty can voice concerning LGBT issues. (It reminds me of another classroom, where the topic was religion, and where the professor was also trying to keep the environment safe for marginalized minorities.)

I wonder just how this professor, and the writers of speech codes everywhere, think it’s affirming to LGBT people to tell them they need this kind of protection. They need a “safe environment,” says the prof. This is not about being safe from physical attack; if it were, I would agree with him or her. It’s about being safe from “conversation about whether or not he has the basic right to marry.”

What, are they too fragile to be able to handle a word of disagreement? Is that what he or she thinks about them?

If you want to build someone up–someone you actually believe in, that is–you don’t shield them from life’s realities. You walk through the challenges with them. You only shield people this way if you’re worried they’ll crumble before they can grow up enough to meet the challenge.

This professor’s attitude is incredibly demeaning toward LGBT people. So are speech codes like Marquette’s, wherever they’re enacted. It’s an offense against LGBT people that no one seems to notice. Why?