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The legislation titled “An Act regarding the use of offensive words,” states: “A person who uses the word ‘bitch’ directed at another person to accost, annoy, degrade or demean the other person shall be considered to be a disorderly person.” Penalties for a disorderly conduct conviction include a $150 fine for a first offense and $200 or 6 months in prison for subsequent offenses.
Rep. Daniel Hunt (D-Dorchester) told the Herald Monday that he filed the measure upon request from a constituent, who he did not identify.
“While I detest the use of the B-word and the N-word and the word fag, etc., I love the Constitution more and question the constitutionality of bills like this,” said Arline Isaacson, co-chairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. “The concern is specifically about the right to free speech, including speech that I hate.”
"to accost, annoy, degrade or demean"
originally posted by: ganjoa
So here's the key legal phrase:
"to accost, annoy, degrade or demean"
Let's see, according to the intent of the bill, "Yo, bitch! What's happening?!" would be perfectly acceptable speech because there's no stated intent or implication of prohibited intent behind the use of the word.
if burning crosses is protected speech calling some one a b**ch sure as hell is legal
Supreme Court case law Some limits on expression were contemplated by the framers and have been defined by the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1942, the issue of group defamation was first most explicitly brought up in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, which surrounded the issue of a Jehovah's Witness, Walter Chaplinsky, who verbally attacked a town marshal for restricting his use of a public sidewalk to protest organized religion by calling him a "damned fascist" and "racketeer." Later, when the court heard Beauharnais v.Illinois, establishing the narrow traditional exception to the first amendment covering those words which by their very utterances tend to inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. About a decade later in 1952, in Beauharnais v. Illinois, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the state of Illinois's group libel law, which punished expression attacking the reputation of racial, ethnic, and religious groups. The defendant was charged for distributing a leaflet that rallied white people in Chicago “to halt the further encroachment, harassment and invasion of white people, their property, neighborhoods and persons, by the Negro." Going off Chaplinsky, the court ruled that since "libelous utterances [are not] within the area of constitutionally protected speech," it did not matter that the speech did not incite any direct harm. After the Beauharnais case, the Supreme Court developed a free speech jurisprudence that loosened most aspects of the free speech doctrine. Traditionally, however, if the speech did not fall within one of the categorical exceptions, it was protected speech. In 1969, the Supreme Court protected a Ku Klux Klan member's speech and created the "imminent danger" test to determine on what grounds speech can be limited. The court ruled in Brandenburg v. Ohio that: "The constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a state to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force, or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action." This test has been modified very little from its inception in 1969, though it was itself a modification from the earlier clear and present danger standard. Speech promoting violation of the law may still only be restricted when it poses an imminent danger of unlawful action, where the speaker has the intention to incite such action, and there is the likelihood that this will be the consequence of that speech. In 1992, in R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, the issue of targeting hate speech arose again when a group of white teenagers burned a cross in the front yard of an African-American family. The local ordinance in St. Paul, Minnesota, criminalized symbolic expressions tantamount to fighting words, arousing anger on the basis of race (among other protected classes). Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the Supreme Court, held that the ordinance was unconstitutional as it contravened the First Amendment by focusing on particular groups about whom speech was restricted. Scalia explained that "The reason why fighting words are categorically excluded from the protection of the First Amendment is not that their content communicates any particular idea, but that their content embodies a particularly intolerable (and socially unnecessary) mode of expressing whatever idea the speaker wishes to convey." Because the hate speech ordinance was not concerned with the mode of expression, but with the content of expression, it was a violation of the freedom of speech. Thus, the Supreme Court embraced the idea that speech in general is permissible unless it will lead to imminent violence.[a] The opinion noted "This conduct, if proved, might well have violated various Minnesota laws against arson, criminal damage to property", among a number of others, none of which was charged, including threats to any person, not to only protected classes. In 2003, the Supreme Court decided Virginia v. Black. In a 5-4 majority opinion written by Justice O'Connor, the court decided that a law which criminalized public cross-burning was unconstitutional. The court noted that the law would be constitutional if the law included an element of specific intent to inspire fear of bodily harm instead of concluding that cross-burning is prima facie evidence of intent to intimidate. The court's analysis was based upon the first amendment free speech clause. In 2011, the Supreme Court issued their ruling on Snyder v. Phelps, which concerned the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest with signs found offensive by many Americans. Snyder, the father of a soldier whose funeral was protested by Phelps’ church, sued Phelps for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The issue presented was whether the First Amendment protected the expressions written on the signs from being the basis for civil liability. In an 8–1 decision the court sided with Fred Phelps, the head of Westboro Baptist Church, thereby confirming their historically strong protection of freedom of speech. The Court explained, "speech deals with matters of public concern when it can 'be fairly considered as relating to any matter of political, social, or other concern to the community' or when it 'is a subject of general interest and of value and concern to the public." In June 2017, the Supreme Court affirmed in a unanimous decision on Matal v. Tam that the disparagement clause of the Lanham Act violates the First Amendment's free speech clause. The issue was about government prohibiting the registration of trademarks that are "racially disparaging". Justice Samuel Alito wrote: Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express "the thought that we hate". United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U. S. 644, 655 (1929) (Holmes, J., dissenting). Justice Anthony Kennedy also wrote: A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government's benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society. Effectively, the Supreme Court unanimously reaffirmed that there is no 'hate speech' exception to the First Amendment.
R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992) In 1990, a St. Paul, Minn., teen burned a makeshift cross on the lawn of an African-American couple. He was subsequently arrested and charged under the city's Bias-Motivated Crime Ordinance, which banned symbols that "[arouses] anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender." After the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the legality of the ordinance, the plaintiff appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the city had overstepped its bounds with the breadth of the law. In a unanimous ruling written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court held that the ordinance was excessively broad. Scalia, citing the Terminiello case, wrote that "displays containing abusive invective, no matter how vicious or severe, are permissible unless they are addressed to one of the specified disfavored topics."