Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Punished for Exercising the First Amendment

On February 16, 2012, Bridgewater State University student writer Destinie Mogg-Barkalow was physically attacked on campus for an opinion story she wrote in support of same-sex marriage. Her story on Proposition 8 enraged a tall man and a red-headed woman enough to seek out, approach Ms. Mogg-Barkalow, and punch her in the eye. The police report that there have been no arrests and are investigating the incident as a hate crime. This is wrong on so many levels, where do I begin?

I’ll tell you where.

By thanking the highly moronic, small minded, hateful couple. Because of their outlandish, ridiculous, one-sided Neanderthal behavior, has sparked news segments and columns all over the U.S. putting them in the spotlight as complete bigots. Local and national news programs and online websites from the Huffington Post to the Advocate, a pro-gay online newspaper, have spread the word in support of the student writer advocating the equality for all and the right to exercise the First Amendment; free speech.

One part of her article, Ms. Mogg-Barkalow states, “I would never want my rights to be forgotten just so people could walk all over me. If you believe legalizing gay marriage is unconstitutional, I think it is time you moved to another country. If you think it is wrong because of procreation, think again. Not even all straight couples have children. When it comes down to it, all I can say is leave us alone. Why are people so concerned about my soul and not their own? If same-sex couples are going to hell, at least I would be in peace and could finally stop worrying about hypocritical judgment.”

The reverberation of supportive comments for this article from the many online newspapers is astounding. Adam Gage, a manager of web applications at Post Holdings, Inc. posts his comment on “The Advocate” site; “To Destinie Mogg-Barkalow, thank you for your strength, courage, and compassion. To those right-wing nut cases, take a look at history... beating us down only makes us stronger and encourages others to join us. Stay strong Destinie, your voice is important to all of us.”

Then there are the hundreds of posted comments directly from the Bridgewater University online newspaper, “The Comment”. Bella Lockhart writes, “Thank you for writing this article. I agree 100%. I found this editorial because I heard you were physically attacked for your opinion. That's just plain wrong, and I hope they find the people who did that to you and lock them up for it. But they proved you right, didn't they? That Prop 8 just generates more hate. Those homophobes who did that to you proved that they're nothing but hateful bigots. Thanks for taking a stand for all LGBT people in the US, and for anyone who is a "second-class citizen!”

Sadly, Ms. Mogg-Barkalow is faced with the high risks a journalist takes when publishing a story of this magnitude. Did she deserve to be attacked for what she wrote? Absolutely not, however, I suppose the reality of being an opinions writer really hit home, and may have given her a new perspective on journalism, possibly empowering her enough to not back down and continue to tackle the controversial stories head on.

The subject that she wrote about is so strong and emotionally powered, that it has obviously enraged both sides of the spectrum. In my opinion, it takes great courage for such a student to boldly voice her thoughts in print. I congratulate Ms. Mogg-Barkalow for taking a stand, voicing her raw opinion, exercising her First Amendment right to free speech, and reporting on a story that is not just about same-sex marriage, but a story about equality across the board regardless of political or religious beliefs. I feel that it is our duty as journalists to keep the public well informed, speak our minds, and to keep the vision of equality for all in the spotlight.

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