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Stockton City Council Wants To Limit "Hate Speech" During Public Comments

Bret Hunter / Courtesy
 

Bret Hunter / Courtesy

The Stockton City Council wants new guidelines or an ordinance that would prohibit "hate speech" in public testimony at council meetings.

Unruly citizen behavior at Stockton City Council meetings is not out of the ordinary.

Vincent Sayles wasn't officially out of order when he made anti-gay remarks and offended some council members.

"They're talking that I'm a homophobic, I speak God's word regarding humans," says Sayles.

Councilman Daniel Wright says such remarks cross the line of "free speech."

"I'm a champion of free speech but not at the expense of allowing hate speech that offends that overwhelming majority of Stockton's residents," says Wright. "To borrow from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, 'I shall not attempt to further define hate speech but I know it when I hear it, and I heard it tonight, and I heard it two weeks ago.'"

The council asked the city attorney to research possible limits on speech at council meetings.

Mayor Anthony Silva is concerned about the implications of such limits.

"When they start to express their religious preferences, obviously I don't want to get Stockton sued any more than we already have," he says.

Other council members called the anti-gay remarks hate speech and asked for an ordinance that would limit such comments at council meetings.

 stocktoncity council

Rich Ibarra

Contributing Central Valley/Foothills Reporter

As the Central Valley correspondent, Rich Ibarra covers San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties, along with the foothill areas including Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. He covers politics, the economy and issues affecting the region.   Read Full Bio