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Sen. Melendez proposes legislation to enhance free speech protections

 

Last updated 2/17/2021 at 12:01pm

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Senator Melissa Melendez from Lake Elsinore

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - Sen. Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, introduced legislation today proposing a series of protections to ensure California residents are not ostracized or otherwise treated unfairly because of their political beliefs.

"It is unfathomable to me that corporations and members of the public would ruin a person's career, business and family because of their political ideology,'' Melendez said. "A free society shouldn't allow thoughts and ideas to be censored. Free speech covers all speech -- not just that with which you agree.''

Melendez's Senate Bills 238 and 249, collectively known as the Diversity of Thought Act, seek modifications to the California Government Code, as well as the Education Code, with new provisions specifying that Californians not be discriminated against based on political affiliation.

SB 238 would make it illegal under the Fair Employment & Housing Act to reject someone for a job expressly because of his or her party preference.

SB 249 would establish penalties for "harassment, intimidation and bullying'' in schools at all grade levels based on an individual's political alignment.

"Cancel culture and the efforts to silence differing opinions and voices should be a growing concern for all of us,'' the senator said. "A climate of intolerance has been established and has stifled healthy and normal debate. Anyone who values their own freedom of speech should be concerned. This cannot and should not be allowed to continue.''

"Cancel Culture'' is a phrase that refers to the public censure of people who express unpopular opinions or those who have been accused of harassment or other misdeeds, but it has also been attached to acts of vandalism, including the desecration of public statues of historical figures in the last year.

SB 249 bears similarities to Melendez's Campus Free Speech Act, introduced when she was an assemblywoman in 2017.

That bill sought a bundle of regulations that would have required public and private colleges and universities to ensure advocates of diverse political philosophies receive equal treatment when holding rallies and sponsoring forums.

At the time, UC Berkeley had scrapped or placed heavy restrictions on several functions hosted by the Berkeley College Republicans.

The then-assemblywoman's proposal did not make it out of committee.

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