Hate speech against transgender people — even when uttered in private — has been outlawed by Norway's parliament in an expansion of the country's penal code that's protected gays and lesbians since 1981, Reuters reported.
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Those found guilty of hate speech spoken in private face a fine or up to a year in jail, the outlet said, adding that those found guilty of public hate speech face a maximum of three years in jail.
"I'm very relieved actually, because [the lack of legal protection] has been an eyesore for trans people for many, many years," Birna Rorslett, vice president of the Association of Transgender People in Norway, told Reuters.
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Norway is one of the most liberal countries in Europe for LGBT+ people, allowing trans people to legally change gender without a medical diagnosis in 2016. But reported homophobic crimes have risen, according to advocacy group, ILGA-Europe.
Minister of Justice and Public Security Monica Maeland told Reuters that transgender people are "an exposed group when it comes to discrimination, harassment, and violence" and that "it is imperative that the protection against discrimination offered by the criminal legislation is adapted to the practical situations that arise."
The amendments approved in late November outlaw discrimination based on "gender identity or gender expression" and "homosexual orientation" was changed to "sexual orientation," meaning bisexual as well as lesbian and gay people will be explicitly protected from discrimination, the outlet said.
And those charged with violent crimes can receive harsher sentences if judges decide their actions were motivated by victims' sexual orientation or gender identity, Reuters reported, citing the penal code.
Professor and legal scholar Jonathan Turley argued that the move is deadly to free speech in Norway.
"In their homes, people will often share religious and political views that depart from majoritarian values or beliefs," Turley wrote. "This law would regulate those conversations and criminalize the expression of prohibited viewpoints."
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The most chilling fact is that European-style speech controls have become a core value in the Democratic Party. Once a party that fought for free speech, it has become the party demanding Internet censorship and hate speech laws. President-Elect Joe Biden has called for speech controls and recently appointed a transition head for agency media issues that is one of the most pronounced anti-free speech figures in the United States. It is a trend that seems now to be find support in the media, which celebrated the speech of French President Emmanuel Macron before Congress where he called on the United States to follow the model of Europe on hate speech.
For free speech advocates, we need to educate the public on where this road leads in places like Norway. What is at stake is the very right that has long defined us as a nation. Once we cross the Rubicon into speech criminalization and controls, Europe has shown that it is rarely possible to work back to liberties lost. We are moving into potentially the most anti-free speech period of American history — and possibly the most anti-free speech Administration. Many politicians are already arguing for citizens to give up their free speech rights in forums like the Internet. With the media echoing many of these anti-free speech sentiments, it will require a greater effort of those who value the First Amendment and its core place in our constitutional system.