The bill received overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses (95-0 in the Louisiana House, 30-3 in the Louisiana Senate), a testament to the widespread embrace of free expression for all on public college campuses. Similar legislation based on the Goldwater model has been considered this year in Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, and California.
While Governor Edwards maintained in his veto letter that House Bill 269 was unnecessary to provide speech protections already granted by the First Amendment, there are countless examples of free expression being denied on college campuses. In Louisiana, for instance, speech and assembly activities at Southeastern Louisiana University are limited to a single two-hour time period every seven days—sending the message that free speech is not welcome on campus most of the time. Stories of speakers being shouted down—like American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray at Middlebury College—and violent protests—like those against Evergreen State College professor Bret Weinstein—have frequently appeared in the news in recent months.
“The right to protest peacefully and respectfully must be protected—but so must the right of others to hear from controversial speakers. Respect for free expression must go both ways, and that what this legislation was meant to accomplish,” said Jonathan Butcher, education policy director at the Goldwater Institute and co-author of the model legislation on which House Bill 269 was based. “While Governor Edwards may not see how big the threat to free speech is on college campuses, the legislators of Louisiana saw it in near-unanimous fashion, and students and legislators are seeing the need for a solution across the country.”
About the Goldwater Institute
The Goldwater Institute drives results by working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and strengthen the freedom guaranteed to all Americans in the constitutions of the United States and all 50 states. With the blessing of its namesake, the Goldwater Institute opened in 1988. Its early years focused on defending liberty in Barry Goldwater’s home state of Arizona. Today, the Goldwater Institute is a national leader for constitutionally limited government respected by the left and right for its adherence to principle and real world impact. No less a liberal icon than the New York Times calls the Goldwater Institute a “watchdog for conservative ideals” that plays an “outsize role” in American political life.