Although the first article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States states that
Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech
this proscription is far from absolute, as various forms of speech that cause harm to others can give rise to civil or criminal liability.
Given the numerous forms of harmful speech not protected by the First Amendment (many of which are less-potentially-harmful or less-directly-harmful than many forms of hate speech), it strikes me as extremely odd that hate speech is a form of protected speech which cannot constitutionally be restricted by Congress or the states:1
- If Dỳo libels Isabel's restaurant in his magazine column, causing his readers to avoid her restaurant and resulting in her losing business, Isabel can sue him for causing her financial loss via his libel.
- If Sirleck kills Francine by speaking a lethal auditory cognitohazard, he can be arrested and tried for murder. (Even if he "merely" puts her in a vegetative state or drives her insane, he can still be arrested and tried for that.)
- Yet, if Ronald kills Kayleigh by using incessant transphobic hate speech to drive her to suicide (or "merely" causes massive psychological trauma resulting in various delightful severe psychological and psychiatric disorders), he gets off scot-free.
Why this perplexing inconsistency in what, harmful-speech-wise, is constitutionally-permissible and what is not?
The key is that holding these beliefs, and stating these beliefs, hurts nobody.
doesn't hold water, as, while holding hateful beliefs (without stating or acting on them in any way) is indeed harmless, stating hateful beliefs can cause real, concrete, immense, and potentially-lethal2 psychological harm to the victim of this speech.
2: As (among many many other examples) the countless LGBTQ+ children and teenagers who've been driven to suicide by being victims to incessant hateful speech could testify (were you to reanimate them with their mental faculties intact, at least).