To protect speech of all kinds, Senator Henry Stern plans to introduce legislation next year that would make California a “Free Speech State.”
In an announcement Friday, Stern (D-Canoga Park) said the bill he will author is a direct response to President Donald Trump’s effort to fire NFL athletes who protest the national anthem and support of women sharing their stories of sexual harassment and abuse on social media following accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re Ben Shapiro speaking at UC Berkeley, a brave female employee standing up to misogyny in her workplace through the #MeToo movement or a Dallas Cowboy playing in California this Sunday, the Constitution does not limit speech based on value judgments so long as it doesn’t harm others,” Stern said in a statement.
The bill aims to deter employer retribution or retaliation against employees for their speech, the senator said.
If passed into law, this will ensure public institutions have the resources to accommodate all speech, even if it offends someone’s values, according to Stern.
“Employers should not be able to retaliate against employees for exercising their constitutional rights,” Stern said. “And, in turn, employers shouldn’t feel bullied by the president.”
Building on this momentum, on Sunday, Stern took to social media to emphasize his support for women who have experienced harassment and abuse and called legislators to action.
“The First Amendment does not protect sexual harassers, including those who abuse their power to bully, objectify or belittle women,” Stern wrote on Facebook. “Time to evolve, brothers. Sisters, lead us. We got your back.”
The 27th district senator said there needs to be legislation, policy changes and tougher penalties to protect whistleblowers. Also, he said there needed to be a change in the narrative of how women are treated and talked about.
“Beyond the obvious duties to fiercely prosecute violations of the law, and violations of the basic social code, to just be a decent guy and not a creep, and to model that behavior for the next generation, we need to focus on what we say and do when women are not around, when no one is watching, and it’s ‘just the guys talking,’” Stern said. “Locker room talk is not just talk. It is a pretense for normalized misogyny and foolish discrimination.”