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Threats to Free Speech: Norway Outlaws Private Hate Speech Against Trans/Bisexual People

Where western law has historically punished people’s behavior, progressive groups have been waging an effort for law to punish people’s words.

Norway’s parliament voted on Tuesday, November 10th to outlaw both private and public hate speech against transgender and bisexual people.

Gay and lesbian people have been protected from hate speech under Norway’s penal code since 1981.

This most recent law is an expansion of that penal code. It changes the code’s language from “homosexual orientation” to “sexual orientation”, and adds “gender, gender identity, or expression”, so as to include transgender and bisexual people in its scope.

If found guilty of private hate speech, an individual will face a fine or up to a year in jail.

If found guilty of public hate speech, the offender can face up to three years in jail.

According to Norway’s penal code, speech is considered “public” if it “is made in a way that makes it likely to reach a sizable number of persons.”

Additionally, a judge has the authority to add extra prison time for a violent crime if it’s determined that the victim was targeted specifically because of their sexual identity.

Free speech advocates throughout the West are concerned that the proliferation of hate speech laws in western society are impinging on constitutionally-protected free speech rights.

In Norway, free speech is protected under Article 100 of the Norwegian Constitution:

“There shall be freedom of expression.”

Freedom of expression, according to the article, is “the seeking of truth, the promotion of democracy and the
individual’s freedom to form opinions.”

“Everyone shall be free to speak his mind frankly on the administration of the State and on any other subject whatsoever.”

Norwegian Constitution, Article 100

How, then, are they to reconcile the punishment of private “hate speech” with their own Constitution’s declaration that “everyone shall be free to speak his mind on any…subject whatsoever”?

Free speech advocates do not protest these laws because they want to practice hate speech, but out of concern that “hate speech” is too broadly defined, and will lead to a State-enforced ideology.

In other words, they recognize that allowance for hate speech is necessary in a truly free society.

I’ll leave some more philosophical insight on the “perniciousness” of hate speech laws to Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson:

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