How Not to Advance Gay Equality, Canadian Edition

by Jonathan Rauch

I got an email this morning from a gay-marriage opponent wanting to know how "conservative gay-marriage advocates" react to the firing, in Canada, of a sportscaster, Damian Goddard, who tweeted against same-sex marriage. Goddard is taking his case to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, charging anti-Catholic religious discrimination.

My simple reaction is: If the facts are as Goddard alleges, his firing was wrong and boneheaded.

Wrong, because his tweet ("I completely and whole-heartedly support Todd Reynolds and his support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage") was within the bounds of civil discourse and does not seem likely to have compromised his objectivity as a sportscaster. If tweets of this sort are deemed intolerable by employers, then much workplace political speech will be off-limits (in fact, here in the U.S., much already is). Boneheaded, because overzealous opinion-policing accomplishes nothing except to help gay-marriage opponents prop up their "gay bullying" narrative).

My complicated reaction adds a few other points, which all weigh against claiming Goddard as a poster child for "homosexual bullying."

1) We have only Goddard's version of what happened. The employer, Rogers Communications, isn't (yet) talking. My experience as a journalist is that when you have only one side, you don't know what's going on. (Toronto Star: "Sportsnet suggested in a release that their problems with Goddard did not start with his decision to share his political views online." At minute 10:34 of this video, Goddard says "absolutely, for sure, it could have been something" other than just the tweet.)

2) This happened in Canada, not the U.S. No First Amendment up there. Canada has long had issues with rampant PC police. Gay marriage opponents have more legal, and cultural, protection here.

3) Gay people didn't do this. Rogers Communications did it.

4) Media companies have legitimate reasons to worry about journalists' popping off about politics, and journalists have long accepted restrictions on their political speech. An on-air host, even a sportscaster, is the public face of his organization, a role in which he gives up some autonomy.

5) This is not an argument about gay marriage. It's perfectly possible to have freedom of speech and gay marriage.

Memo to gay marriage opponents: For all those reasons, it will be a pity if you demagogue the Goddard firing. Is there any hope that you won't?

Memo to gay marriage advocates: Free speech got us where we are. We need more speech, not less, and that's what we should be telling companies like Rogers Communications.