There has been discussion around the blog world about some women who formed a group in Oakland at their place of employment (in 2003). They formed their group, called the Good News Employee Association, after other employees sent out an email telling people about the upcoming National Coming Out Day rally. Apparently the women who formed GNEA were opposed to this, and formed their group to combat same sex marriage. Here is some of what they had to say:
In 2003, Regina Rederford and Robin Christy posted a flier urging fellow employees to "preserve our workplace with integrity" and promoted theirassociation as "a forum for people of faith to express their views on contemporary issues of the day with respect for the natural family, marriage and family values."
Notice the code words–‘natural family’ ‘marriage’ ‘family values.’ Anyone familiar with current news knows that these words are usually spoken by Christian fundamentalists who think they own the concept of family. And notice too that they think that gays and lesbians cannot be ‘people of faith.’ I guess their bias shows and it is clear to see why gays and lesbians would feel uncomfortable with something like it. It is like a white supremist group forming after a black group formed to discuss discrimination. How would the black group feel to a white group calling for discussion on racial purity, natural citizens and such things? I imagine that wouldn’t go over very well, and more than likely the white group would be fired (as they should be). But in this case, the discrimination is hidden behind the cloak of religion.
For me this isn’t an issue of free speech. The whole mess went to court because the women of GNEA believed their rights to free speech was taken away when their employer took down their fliers. This was done to preserve a stable workplace. Not to stifle their free speech. Their calling for discussions on the ‘natural family’ could increase tensions at work, and this is certainly what happened.
Now some people who should know better are using this to show how the new hate crime legislation will limit free speech. Oh boy. Free speech is just that. The courts are going to have to decide what limits there are on free speech in the work place. The Supreme Court has already limited speech in highschools. I am not saying this is right at all.
But in the case of the women from GNEA, you obviously have a group of people who think they are superior to another group (for religious reasons). They formed their group in opposition to another group and then used words like ‘natural’ and ‘family values’, implying that they are more natural and have real family values–more than their gay and lesbian co-workers. Obviously this isn’t true and it was bound to cause some problems (which is probably what their intention was). Their intentions were not good, and therefore I think that their employers should have some say in keeping disruptions at work to a minimum, without causing worse disruptions.
There have also been some discussion on what other groups use the Oakland email and bulletin board system:
Other city-approved e-mails, during the same time period, announced the establishment of an "altar" for Day of the Dead, a celebration of 150 years of Jewish history in Oakland, "National Coming Out Day," "the first anti-Iraq war teach-in sponsored by a city government anywhere in the U.S.," and a "First Annual Holiday Mixer" for the Gay-Straight Employee Alliance.
What is the difference between GNEA and these other groups? These other groups weren’t formed as a means to specifically oppose another group at work. If they had created a group to oppose Jewish History, the would have been fired or at least get a good dressing down from their employer. But no, GNEA was formed to oppose other co-workers. In my opinion, that is really what this case is about. It has nothing to do with free speech (as the courts are finding).