But names will never hurt me: Extending hate speech legislation to protect gender and sexual minorities in New Zealand
Hate speech legislation involves a fundamental conflict with the right to freedom of expression. However, it is a conflict that can be justified in a constitutional framework in which free speech is not paramount and can be balanced against other rights and freedoms. This paper discusses the concept of “hate speech” legislation, the conflict between freedom of expression and hate speech censorship, and ways in which these seemingly-incompatible concepts might be harmonised. It considers, drawing on legislation and case law from other jurisdictions, and in light of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act 2013, the possibility of extending such legislation to protect gender and sexual minorities in New Zealand, and suggests a potential framework for such legislative change. Any provision concerning hate speech must avoid overreaching into the realm of free expression. As a result, ‘hate speech’ should be clearly defined and narrowly focussed in scope, as words or matter which “exposes or tends to expose to hatred or contempt” the minority group at which the protection is aimed. In New Zealand’s constitutional/rights framework, this limitation on freedom of expression can be justified as reasonable and appropriate. While hate speech legislation does create a conflict with freedom of expression, to protect hate speech at the risk of perpetuating harm, discrimination, marginalisation and silencing is not appropriate. It sends the message that the voice of hate speakers is worth more than that of minorities, and undervalues the dignity and social assurance of those minority groups as valued members of society.