Freedom of Speech





Freedom of Speech

            The article, Weighing Free Space in Refusal to Photograph Lesbian Couple’s Ceremony,  published on November 18, 2013 in the New York Times mainly talks about the freedom of speech and expression when relating to certain controversial issues in the society. Ms. Huguenin believes that despite there existing a law that forbids public businesses from discriminating against homosexuals, she should not be compelled to say anything that she does not believe in. When approached by a lesbian couple who wished to document their commitment ceremony, Ms. Huguenin said that she would willingly provide portrait photography but not tell the story of the couple by creating their picture book. This she believed was against her moral principles and the values she believed in.

The couple filed a complaint against Ms Huguenin on grounds of discrimination and Elane Photography, Ms. Huguenin’s studio, has since lost all the battles in court. The couple’s lawyer, Tobias B. Wolff, believes that, Ms Huguenin gave up the right of free speech when she made her business public. Wolff stated that the First Amendment gives businesses the right to retail goods to the members of the public but it does not approve of rejection of customers based on religion, sexual orientation, race or political affiliation. Ms. Huguenin’s lawyer argues that the photographer should be able to reject any assignment that does not conform to her moral obligations in a way that other businesses may not. Ms. Huguenin’s lawyer argued that the law compels Ms. Huguenin to compromise on her religious beliefs and therefore her sentiments did not warrant the couple’s action of filing for a complaint. The court however ruled that a business such as Elane Photography should not be partial in offering services by virtue of being a public business.

            Freedom of speech holds a special spot in the thoughts of American politics. Democracy depends greatly upon the ideas of the public with which the media acts as a channel for information dissemination (Ginsberg, Lowi, and Weir 122). Without open and free debates, it would be almost impossible to decipher the thoughts and views of the public concerning certain issues in politics. The state permits free speech as long as it does not incite or produce “imminent lawless action” (Ginsberg, Lowi, and Weir 123). This means that speech cannot be prohibited despite being subversive or hostile, as long as it does not incite any form of action. In the article, the photographer’s claim that she could not prepare a photo book for the couple’s commitment ceremony was rather inflammatory as it elicited the couple’s action of filing a complaint. It was self-evident that her sentiments were biased, as her business was a public one. Her moral action was not justified as she violated the same law that she was under. Since her business was public, she was required to offer her services in a non-partisan manner. Americans are given the right to speak and give out their ideas “unless some compelling reason can be identified to stop them” (Ginsberg, Lowi and Weir 123).

Ms Huguenin had the right to speak freely as long as her sentiments did not cause any conflict. The article outlines the need for regulation of speech despite the freedom that the law accords it. The freedom of speech should be exercised as long as it does not violate the any laws stipulated in the constitution. The article highlights the importance of exercising this privilege in the correct manner in order to avoid any conflict that may stem from irresponsible use of this freedom.  

Works Cited

Ginsberg, Benjamin, Theodore J. Lowi, and Margaret Weir. We the People: An Introduction to American Politics. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005. Print.

Liptak, Adam. “Weighing Free Speech in Refusal to Photograph Lesbian Couple’s Ceremony.” The New York Times. The New York Times Mag., 18 November 2013. Web. 22 November 2013.

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