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Free speech, downsized

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It seems we have reached an odd kind of stage in the United States when the Supreme Court has ruled that campaign spending by corporate fatcats is permissible "free speech," but Dr. Ben Carson's utterances against gay marriage are considered impermissible bigotry by his employers.

I would note that Dr. Carson did not advocate punishment, imprisonment or persecution for same-sex couples; he only questioned their right to marriage, an institution millions of straight Americans have foregone in favor of mere cohabitation. In an age where the average U.S. marriage lasts only five years and I have seen English as a Second Language textbooks list the "benefits" of divorce (leaving the non-native students, as a language exercise, to come up with the disadvantages!), it is interesting that marriage is seen as an important civil right at all.

In an earlier stage of American history — roughly corresponding to the Vietnam war era — sharply opposed viewpoints in relation to civil rights, war, women's equality, LSD and space exploration were debated intensely across this country. People offended each other with their views, and yet rarely tried to silence each other. Has the Age of Obama sunk to a lower standard of freedom of expression?

Mark Chalkley, Baltimore

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