MINOT, N.D. — We shouldn't take California's travel ban very seriously.
North Dakota was recently added to that state's naughty list, meaning state employees are restricted in their ability to travel here, and the real-world impact will be pretty much nothing. The people implementing this policy don't even take it that seriously, as evidenced by a recent Associated Press report: "[Attorney General Rob] Bonta did not have information about how many state agencies have stopped sending state employees to the states on the list or the financial impact of California’s travel ban on those states."
California's left-wing leadership cares more about the appearances of this policy than its practical applications. If that weren't true, Mr. Bonta might actually know a thing or two about how the policy is being implemented.
But let's focus on what it was, exactly, that earned North Dakota the ire of The Golden State. The AP tells us that the ban implemented against ours and other states "because of laws that discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community."
The bill really doesn't have anything to do with the LGBTQ community, specifically. And you don't have to take my word for it. Rep. Josh Boschee, a Fargo Democrat and the first openly gay member of the Legislature, was equally flummoxed by California's decision.
Boschee "said he didn't recall during the session 'any specific conversation related to impacting LGBT students,'" the Bismarck Tribune reports.
He opposed the bill, but not for anti-LGBTQ reasons.
Bonta's office says the bill "repeals existing protections at some North Dakota public universities by permitting certain publicly-funded student organizations to openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ students by restricting participation in those organizations. It also limits the ability of universities and colleges to sanction or discipline student-on-student harassment."
The bill does prohibit universities from making value judgments as to the speech of student organizations. If, say, a Christian student group wants to argue that same-sex marriage is sinful, they're allowed to, however you or I might feel about that argument.
Isn't that the point of free speech? And by the way, another student group that might want to argue that opposition to same-sex marriage is bigotry would have the same protections.
That's how it works.
Popular speech doesn't need protection. Nobody is trying to inhibit our ability to talk about baseball or the weather. The First Amendment has to exist to protect the controversial speech, such as opinions about LGBTQ lifestyles, people with power, like, say, the Attorney General of California, might want to silence.
As for the supposed limits on addressing harassment that Bonta references, the bill says quite the opposite.
"An institution may not enforce the student-on-student discriminatory harassment policy by disciplining or otherwise imposing any sanction on a student for a violation of the policy stemming from expression unless ... The speech or expression is unwelcome, targets the victim on a basis protected under federal, state, or local law, and is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that a student effectively is denied equal access to educational opportunities or benefits provided by the institution," it says.
Or, more succinctly, universities can't act against harassing speech unless it's actually, you know, harassment.
A tactic frequently deployed by those wishing to silence speech is to categorize the speech they don't like as harassment or even violence. It's a bogus tactic, and this bill aims to prevent it, at least on North Dakota's campuses.
That's a good thing.
The entirety of HB 1503 is a good thing.
I'm glad it's law.
I'm confused why anyone, from the North Dakota liberals who opposed it in the Legislature to California's progressive Savanrolas, would see it as a bad thing.
I get it. It's hard to countenance speech we disagree with. It's difficult to see and hear people express things we don't like. But if we, as Americans, aren't committed to the principles of free speech, what are we even doing here?
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.