The New Jersey State Senate and Assembly passed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights (3466) yesterday with a 71-1 from the Assembly and a 30-0 vote in the Senate.
The single “NO” came from conservative Republican Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll. Given his history of voting, that’s no surprise.
On his once a month blog, Carroll explains why he thought this legislation was unnecessary, nothing more than feel-good ‘political correctness’. And he makes some very interesting comparisons: in his opening salvo, he reduces bullying to the kind experienced by the lead comic strip character depicted in the strip Calvin and Hobbes. So you can tell how seriously he takes this issue, and where his argument is going to go from there.
But wait, there’s more:
Carroll then goes on to make no distinction between being bullied because you’re gay or lesbian, and being bullied because you’re a “nerd”. To quote Ronald Reagan, “Mr. Carroll, there you go again.” Perhaps he’s been watching “Happy Days” reruns too much, and thinking about Fonzie picking on Potsie.
I had an exchange last night with Mr. Carroll on Facebook, as I’ve had on several issues with this conservative libertarian Assemblyman from the 25th District. Remember, this is the same guy who opposes marriage equality, defaults to ideologue libertarianism on every issue, and once initiated legislation to change the name of the town of Clinton to Reagan. But I digress.
This is what Mr. Carroll had to say about me, when I expressed my support for the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights:
With all due respect, that opinion is absolutely pathetic. You should be ashamed of yourself for giving voice to it.
ALL victims of bullying should be treated equally.
Mr. Carroll’s argument is one that is constitutional–that somehow all those who bully should be treated equally under the 14th amendment. I am sure that if the Founding Framers were sitting in the same room with Mr. Carroll, when he issued that opinion, they might call him a nerd, too.
Mr. Carroll thinks that because the “harm” is the same, that all victims of bullying should be treated equally. This is an absurd application of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
The “harm” may be the same, but that should not be the only criteria upon which a law dealing with that harm should be based.
For example, under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, those who perpetrate a fraud against senior citizens are giving greater penalties than if their victims are under 65. Senior citizens being a more vulnerable class of consumers are in need of greater protection–in the form of higher penalties for those who target them. The same argument can be made for bullies who target those who are gay or lesbian or people of color. Perhaps Mr. Carroll has a problem with protecting senior citizens, also.
Similarly, class action suits are set up to deal with an issue where a particular class of consumer is targeted either by an industry or a particular corporation. Each consumer who is wronged may suffer a small financial loss. However, the loss may not be great enough to justify suing the corporation who has perpetrated the wrong. So, in order to punish the Corporation for perpetrating such wrongs against consumers, the law allows such consumers to form a cohesive class–and sue the Corporation as a group. Only in this manner will the Corporation be motivated to cease their wrong action, either by injunction, or by settlement.
Both federal and state law has allowed the protection of special classes of individuals based on color, national origin or religion, or sexuality. I referred Mr. Carroll to the well-known Supreme Court case of United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144 (1938)—Footnote Four dealing with the possibility of protecting ‘discrete and insular minorities’.
Certainly a strong argument can be made that the protection of “certain discrete and insular minorities” (such as gays and lesbians) is a regulation that is rationally related to a legitimate state interest, as referred to in the text of footnote 4.
This Thanksgiving season I am glad that we have legislators in New Jersey on both sides of the aisle who can see that these folks in college need special protection. Pathetic? Ashamed of myself for giving voice to it? If I be ‘pathetic’ and ‘ashamed’, I am joined by 100 other New Jersey state legislators who feel as strongly about the topic as I do.