Wed, Jun 07, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Free speech goes both ways

On Saturday, five banners symbolizing different issues hung outside Taipei Municipal Jianguo Senior High School’s historic red-brick building as part of this year’s graduation display. By Sunday, only four were left — the school had asked the students to take down a rainbow banner representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) issues, a student wrote on Facebook on Monday.

The school likely caved in to pressure from organizations such as the Defend Family Student League, who posted a photograph of the banners on its Facebook page on Saturday, calling it “rainbow terror” and encouraging people to call the school and complain.

A rainbow banner is nothing new, given the number of rainbow flags seen in public places these days, but the same old argument rages on with no resolution in sight.

The student wrote that they took the banner down because they had already graduated and were no longer part of the school, and did not want to cause more trouble for school officials — though they did say that they would continue to communicate with the school about putting the banner back up.

Without hearing the school’s side of the story, it is hard to weigh its decision, but is succumbing to external complaints something it wants to be doing regularly?

Nobody had anything to say about the other banners, which included climate change, violence and nuclear energy. There are probably fewer people who do not believe in climate change in Taiwan than in the US, but would the school respond accordingly if someone complained about that? That may just seem absurd — but for the LGBTQ community, this is reality.

In defense of its stance, the league said that when several professors expressed their opposition to same-sex marriage, they received public criticism that “educators should not publicly express their views on such controversial topics.”

However, is the league not doing the same to the students by questioning their “audacity in hanging such things from the building”?

No matter what your stance is, Taiwan is a free society where freedom of speech is protected by law. There are people advocating for independence while others push for unification with China. Of course, there are limits to freedom, such as the Nazi incident at a high-school parade that caused a stir earlier this year.

One of the consequences of freedom is people disagreeing with each other — sometimes in an uncivil way. However, yelling at each other is still better than being afraid to speak out.

People who oppose same-sex marriage have a right to express their opinions, but they should not get upset over the backlash and should not stop other people from expressing contrary views.

These kinds of incidents will not go away simply because of the nation’s landmark ruling on same-sex marriage last month. It remains a divisive issue and groups that oppose it have vowed to work with legislators to further their cause.

However, targeting student groups and sweeping the issue under the rug by making the banner “disappear” is not a solution. Homosexuality is not a “trend,” like these groups claim. It is a fact of life that needs to be thoroughly discussed and understood on all levels and sides.

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