Supreme Court Unanimously Reaffirms: Hate Speech Is Still Free Speech

The court's ruling in an unrelated case struck down part of the trademark law that bars a trademark on disparaging or offensive terms.

In a decision that could benefit the NFL's Washington Redskins, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a federal prohibition on disparaging trademarks as a constitutional violation in a major free speech ruling involving a band called The Slants. Tam pushed back on the decision though, arguing in countless interviews that the band was trying to reclaim the slur and use is a "badge of pride".

"After an excruciating legal battle that has spanned almost eight years, we're beyond humbled and thrilled to have won this case at the Supreme Court", he wrote.

Under the so-called "disparagement clause" of the 1946 Langham Act trademarks that "disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute any persons living or dead" are prohibited. In preserving First Amendment rights, the Supreme Court ruling, according to Tam's post, empowers Americans who can now "decide who should prevail in the marketplace ideas rather than a lone examining attorney". ".Today the Supreme Court affirmed a core value of free speech: The government can not withhold a benefit in order to limit or punish what it perceives to be offensive speech. This journey has always been much bigger than our band: it's been about the rights of all marginalized communities to determine what's best for ourselves", Tan said.

"The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause".

"It is a fundamental principle of the First Amendment that the government may not punish or suppress speech based on disapproval of the ideas or perspectives the speech conveys", he wrote.

The team has its own separate case challenging the ban, but it chose a more procedurally lengthy appellate route than the Slants, meaning the band's case reached the high court first.

Several news organizations, including CNN and The New York Times, reported that the ruling could help the Washington Redskins football team in its battle to protect its trademark.

The team welcomed the decision in a statement that quoted team owner Dan Snyder as saying he was "THRILLED!" with the decision.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch did not hear the case, but all of the other justices ruled in Tan's favor.

But some anxious about what kinds of trademarks the government will now be forced to register.

Critics of the law said the trademark office has been wildly inconsistent over the years in deciding what terms are too offensive to warrant trademark protection. He sought to register the name with the trademark office.

  • Larry Hoffman