Yesterday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed two free speech bills into law. The first bill, HB 2615, prohibits public colleges and universities from restricting student speech to tiny, out-of-the-way “free speech zones.” HB 2548 includes similar language, but it adds a misdemeanor penalty for any person who obstructs another person’s right to gain access and attend a hearing, political event, or government meeting. Arizona is now the third state, following Missouri and Virginia, to statutorily ban free speech zones on public campuses.
“The First Amendment right of free speech is a bedrock founding principle of our Republic,” said Governor Ducey. “Likewise, part of the university experience is to be able to express diverse views, openly, without fear of retribution or intimidation—and to be exposed to other views and perspectives, even if they aren’t politically correct or popular.” The governor also noted that the “bills protect free speech throughout our college campuses, and also ensure an individual’s right to engage in free speech isn’t shut down by someone else who disagrees with his or her perspective.”
According to a survey FIRE conducted in 2013, one in six of America’s top colleges and universities limit where students can engage in expressive activities by establishing misleadingly-labeled free speech zones. FIRE applauds Arizona for protecting campus expression—while also protecting the right to hear the views of others—with the passage of HB 2615 and 2548. We hope other states will follow Arizona’s lead.
Legislators interested in sponsoring bills to ban free speech zones and respect students’ free expression rights can contact FIRE’s legislative team for draft legislation.