Hate speech condemnation on hold
A committee of Ulster County lawmakers has postponed action on a resolution condemning violence and hate speech and expressing solidarity with those targeted.
The delay was prompted by free-speech concerns and questions about whether the measure unintentionally created a legislative policy.
The proposed resolution — originally written to express solidarity with Muslims and others targeted for their ethnicity, race and religion — had been amended to instead condemn hate speech toward all those targeted for their ethnicity, race, religion, gender, gender identification or political views after some questioned why Muslims were being singled out in the wording.
During a Republican caucus Tuesday, legislative counsel Erica Guerin warned the resolution, which some lawmakers said merely was a memorializing resolution putting the Legislature on record as opposing hate speech, seemed to be setting a policy that could be perceived as hindering individual rights to free speech.
The resolution reads, in part: “The Ulster County Legislature commits to pursuing a policy agenda that affirms civil and human rights and ensures those targeted on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion, gender, gender identification, political views or immigration status can turn to the government without fear of recrimination.”
“As far as I’m concerned, the language creates a policy,” Guerin said. “This is hindrance to free speech. This is a slippery slope, contrary to what you stand for.”
The Legislature’s Laws and Rules Committee voted 4-1 Tuesday to postpone a final vote on the resolution until those concerns are addressed.