SB-102 passed the Colorado House today on its third reading with a unanimous vote. So far, the bill has passed both houses of the General Assembly unanimously with no amendments. That means that the final step is for Governor Hickenlooper to sign the bill and criminal libel will no longer be on the books in the state of Colorado. It’s about damned time
I went down to Denver today to testify in favor of repealing criminal libel again, this time in front of the House committee. Along with me, the ACLU, Colorado Press Association, Colorado Bar Association, and the Attorney General’s Office all testified in favor of the bill. The committee voted unanimously to forward it to the full House with a positive recommendation.
I may be a little early in celebrating, but it seems that this thing is sliding right through the process on rails. 8 years in court and all it takes a wacky conservative senator from out on the plains to push a criminal libel repeal through the legislature in record time. Who knew?
A couple of weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh went on a tirade against a grad student from George Washington University named Sandra Fluke. She had been denied an opportunity to testify about contraception coverage through institutional insurance plans, specifically from religious institutions like her university. Subsequently, she was able to speak at a public hearing brought by congressional democrats about the added cost to women that needed contraception, but were unable to get it through their insurance provider. Her testimony centered on a friend of hers that needed hormonal birth control to treat a medical condition, but was unable to afford it and so lost an ovary because of the lack of treatment.
Limbaugh freaked the fuck out about how people shouldn’t have to subsidize women’s sex lives and personally attacked Fluke, calling her a slut and a prostitute. After three days of that, the shitstorm public response had advertisers pulling their support from his show. Beyond the simple bullheaded stupidity that Rush showed by somehow conflating a high contraception bill to a sheer amount of sex, and missing the entire point of Fluke’s testimony that her friend needed birth control pills for something other than contraception but couldn’t get them, I mostly ignored the story because I figured it was another case of Limbaugh being an asshole and he could take his lumps.
Then the pushback started. People started pointing out that Bill Maher had at various times called Sarah Palin a stupid cunt and a twat. Somehow excusing Rush’s behavior by balancing against a blowhard on the left was the strategy for weathering his current shitstorm. What’s worse, Bill Maher actually kinda defended Rush on freedom of speech grounds.
Without getting into the weeds of what the law around speech issues actually is, I can definitively say that both those guys are assholes and that people defending them on freedom of speech grounds are wrong. Here’s the thing- the first amendment protects you from the government. Rush Limbaugh is protected from government action that abridges his right to say stupid crap. That means that he’s not going to go to jail. Further, he’s probably on safe ground as far as losing a lawsuit though his particular statements might cross the threshold into slander territory. On the other hand, people publicly and loudly saying “FUCK THAT GUY” and communicating that to his friends, colleagues, and advertisers is pretty much the very foundation of the idea of free speech in this country.
In short, the freedom of speech includes everybody; even the people that don’t like what you say and protest it. Bill Maher was just being a pussy because he realized that he could also be in deep shit if he offended the wrong people with his big mouth. If he doesn’t think that he can adequately explain himself whenever he steps on his dick in public and doesn’t have the cojones to own it, then screw that guy.
For the record, as far as I can tell, Sarah Palin is kind of a dumb cunt.
After passing the Colorado Senate unanimously, the bill repealing Colorado’s criminal libel law will come up for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, March 22nd at 1pm. I’ll be there to testify again. With any luck, this will receive as much support as it did in the Senate.