You know what the problem with freedom of speech is? People use it. Yet far too few realize that the right to free speech carries with it the responsibility to respect others who exercise their freedom of speech in opposition to you.
Jeff Miller has the right to express his thoughts on same-sex marriage and the proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as being between one man and one woman.
That Jeff Miller also serves on the Morris Human Rights Commission does not exempt him from his right to express an opinion.
In fact, it is only because he is a member of the Human Rights Commission that Jeff publicly supported a "yes" vote on the ballot question over a marriage amendment to the state constitution.
The reason that Jeff's column appeared under the Morris Human Rights Commission banner is that the Commission requested it. In recognition of its 15th anniversary, the Commission asked to publish 15 articles on various topics related to human rights, which our editorial staff fully supported, much the same as we support the Morris Public Library having a regular column.
The commission's plan was to have opposing views on the marriage amendment to be included in the series of columns, and Jeff agreed to write in support of a yes vote. That had to take some courage on Jeff's part, since he knew his was not the majority opinion on the Commission. Yet he wrote it and put his name on it.
And since the Commission had run several columns prior to this, the Morris Sun Tribune treated Jeff's article in the same manner as all of the others that were submitted. Because we do not run a disclaimer on similar columns, such as the library's column, we did not think to include a disclaimer.
Yet, these details are lost in the outcry over a member of the Human Rights Commission holding a view that some folks don't like.
So now, the mayor and city council are getting letters asking Jeff to resign or be removed from the Human Rights Commission.
I could not disagree more.
In his column, Jeff did not advocate for the discrimination of GLBT individuals or couples, nor did he make any comment that is in conflict with the mission of the Human Rights Commission, which is to:
Identify equity problems in the City
Educate the public
Respond to incidents of discrimination
Build relationships with school districts, agencies, business and community organizations and enlisting their cooperation in an active program directed to create equal opportunity and eliminate discrimination and inequalities
Act in an advisory capacity with respect to planning or operation of any City department on issues of civil and human rights
Administer an appropriate grievance process
In a previous Human Rights Commission column, it was noted that a no vote on the amendment simply allowed the conversation to move forward, and Minnesotans to continue to examine the issues with the guidance of lawmakers, business leaders, clergy, advocates of both sides of the issue, and their own hearts.
For those who want to have the law changed, don't overlook the value of someone expressing an opposing viewpoint.
And your right to your opinion does not mean you have the right to deny the facts. The vote on the amendment was very close and Jeff is not the only one to hold this opinion, especially in Morris and Stevens County. By removing him from the Commission, you are asking to stop the conversation about the issue.
The answer to the problem of free speech is more free speech. The issue is a complicated one and we need to hear all of the voices in a civic conversation. I applaud Becki Jordan, the chair of the Morris Human Rights Commission, for her response to this issue, which was to invite those who want to discuss the matter further to attend their next meeting on Nov. 14 at 5 p.m. at the Common Cup.