Victory! The Slants Are Officially Rock Stars of the First Amendment

The Supreme Court today struck down portions of the Lanham Act, a 1946 federal trademark law that allowed the government to deny “offensive” trademarks as a violation of trademark holders’ free speech rights. Agreeing with arguments made by the ACLU in its brief to the court, the justices held that the First Amendment prevents the government from withholding a substantial government benefit just because it doesn’t like what you have to say.

The court’s ruling makes a second, less formal determination: The Chinatown dance-rock band The Slants are the new poster children for the First Amendment.

The justices unanimously agreed that The Slants’ First Amendment rights were violated when the government claimed the right to control their speech in exchange for offering a trademark. The opinion warns against government moves to “silence or muffle the expression of disfavored viewpoints.” Fortunately, the risk of that kind of broad censorship is much lower after today’s decision.

The Slants chose their name to reclaim and redeem a racial slur often used against Asians and Asian-Americans.

Years ago, The Slants applied for a registered trademark, a massive financial benefit handed out by the federal Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). For any band with an aspirational following, a registered trademark means a lot: the right to brand yourself — and your products — with an expression of your choosing and a strong right to enforce your claim against fakers and counterfeiters. That makes the registration of trademarks a substantial government benefit. And if the First Amendment means anything, it means that the government can’t hand out benefits based on how much it agrees with the views you express.

There is absolutely no doubt that this particular trademark expresses a very clear message: The Slants chose their name to reclaim and redeem a racial slur often used against Asians and Asian-Americans. After they applied for the registration, the PTO examiner handling their application denied them a trademark — after Googling the band and discovering it was made up of Asian-American rockers. He thus determined that the band was using “slant” as a slur and denied their application under the Lanham Act.

That was censorship, pure and simple.

The Lanham Act is a federal law that — until today — permitted the government to deny registered trademarks determined to be “disparag[ing],” or otherwise “offensive” or “immoral” to a “substantial composite” of an affected group. And despite the fact that the members of the Slants are themselves part of the “affected group” in question, the PTO found the name too offensive for a registered trademark.

The Slants weren’t satisfied with that decision. And like the rock stars they are, they didn’t take it lying down. The band appealed the PTO’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where we filed an amicus brief and provided oral argument to the court on the glaring First Amendment problems with the Lanham Act. The band — and the First Amendment — won. But the federal government appealed to the Supreme Court.

Watch: The Slants Perform at the ACLU

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And thank goodness it did!

Today the Supreme Court affirmed a core value of free speech: The government cannot withhold a benefit in order to limit or punish what it perceives to be offensive speech. And hopefully today’s decision will put a stop to the absurd practice of PTO examiners acting as formal speech police, Googling people to find out if they’re the “right kind” to receive a government benefit.

As with many things under the First Amendment, this decision may lead to uncomfortable results: Products with truly racist or sexist names will (continue to) appear on shelves and a certain Washington football team now undoubtedly gets to retain its own offensive team name, which lost its trademark in 2014 in a decision upheld by lower courts.

Let’s be clear: Unlike in the Slants’ case, there is no cultural reappropriation going on with the NFL team. But there’s no way to lawfully censor speech that offends us without allowing the government the power to censor speech that offends anyone — including The Slants’ band name. When we object to ideas that appear in our marketplace, the default response shouldn’t be to sweep them under a rug and pretend that they aren’t there, but rather call them out, boycott companies that make products that offend us, and ensure our spending reflects our values.

Censorship doesn’t just violate the First Amendment — it often doesn’t produce its intended results. As many activists who lived through the civil rights era, or protested in the streets just this past year, could tell you: Restrictions on free speech are often applied most stringently against groups trying to challenge the status quo.

The Slants are no exception. Decades of history have taught the ACLU that freedom of speech and racial justice are inseparable. And The Slants are now officially rock stars of both.

The ACLU’s brief on behalf of The Slants' First Amendment rights was filed along with the ACLU of Oregon, the ACLU of the District of Columbia, and a group of racial justice organizations.

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Eli Samuel Goldman

All the show has ever been about is brain-washing people to support Donald Trump's White-Supremicist agenda, endear him to people and make his fantasy about ruling the world a reality. Well that, and to clear him of crimes and put other white-supremicists in key governmental positions. That's why they kept putting people in my life with the same name as people who magically now are alt-white-fake-conservatives newly elected to power positions in all branches on government. They would induce me to bring up people from my past then edit everything I say to sound like I'm supporting people I detest or attacking people I'm not even taking about. Then they also manipulated me to believe that people from my past or in media are attacking or disbarraging me or telling untruths forcing me to defend myself. Then they use what I say to pit others against me. In the end they made the entire world hate me for what I wasn't saying!!!!

Eli Samuel Goldman

Right now and for most of a year I've lived more often than not on free condiments because I don't steal, they made it impossible to by/sell things/ I never want to work anywhere the show is going on as they've done enough to make my life a day and night nightmare and they set it up so I couldn't keep my paperwork/documents/address/phone service,...I don't steal or panhandle and until recently they use police and sheriffs to chase me away from any establishment I refuse to advertise based on false/misleading charges. Also they wanted for a while to charge me .99cents per condiments that everyone else gets for free..or I starve. So I go hungry alot except when I find pennies on the ground (which people on the internet ridicule as me being a "cheap greedy Jew" ...sometimes I can save up enough in a few days to get a chocolate bar and free water to live on.

Eli Samuel Goldman

When people offer food they either give me food against my religion, or very detrimental to my health, or they spit in my food or comment all over the Internet that the prick Trump is right and us "poor people just want a handout," even though he ordered the ENTIRE situation to be created and the homeless here are indirectly paid by the show to do what his supporters want them to do. So I go hungry a lot and most maybe 60 lbs in 2 years and am in Crohns Disease pain a lot. Every time I said bad about Trump early in the election Trump had them steal my anti-inflamatory medications prescribed me that keep me alive and healthy. Five times on the streets in the beginning. They keep trying to set up my death or arrest or discredit me hundreds of times since Vegas because a dead man cannot testify and a convict isn't credible. I've had at least 200 life-threatening experiences since I came to Oklahoma alone. That cannot be coincidence... It goes against all odds.

Eli Samuel Goldman

When people offer food they either give me food against my religion, or very detrimental to my health, or they spit in my food or comment all over the Internet that the prick Trump is right and us "poor people just want a handout," even though he ordered the ENTIRE situation to be created and the homeless here are indirectly paid by the show to do what his supporters want them to do. So I go hungry a lot and most maybe 60 lbs in 2 years and am in Crohns Disease pain a lot. Every time I said bad about Trump early in the election Trump had them steal my anti-inflamatory medications prescribed me that keep me alive and healthy. Five times on the streets in the beginning. They keep trying to set up my death or arrest or discredit me hundreds of times since Vegas because a dead man cannot testify and a convict isn't credible. I've had at least 200 life-threatening experiences since I came to Oklahoma alone. That cannot be coincidence... It goes against all odds.

Eli Samuel Goldman

When people offer food they either give me food against my religion, or very detrimental to my health, or they spit in my food or comment all over the Internet that the prick Trump is right and us "poor people just want a handout," even though he ordered the ENTIRE situation to be created and the homeless here are indirectly paid by the show to do what his supporters want them to do. So I go hungry a lot and most maybe 60 lbs in 2 years and am in Crohns Disease pain a lot. Every time I said bad about Trump early in the election Trump had them steal my anti-inflamatory medications prescribed me that keep me alive and healthy. Five times on the streets in the beginning. They keep trying to set up my death or arrest or discredit me hundreds of times since Vegas because a dead man cannot testify and a convict isn't credible. I've had at least 200 life-threatening experiences since I came to Oklahoma alone. That cannot be coincidence... It goes against all odds.

Eli Samuel Goldman

Now that I've seen how evil people can be for a show just because random strangers lie to them and edit my words I have ZERO faith left in humanity. There is no good side to most people and I'm done believing most even have a better nature. ....................................For instance, my whole life I've supported law enforcement thinking it is a mostly hard thankless job; nobody likes the police. But sadly I've only ever seen police and law enforcement break laws and do more harm than most criminals Ive met. I used to make excuses for them, because I was taught to respect them. But all I've EVER seen them do is victiming the person wronged and help the person doing the harm. This is true both with what I've witnessed them do to others, and to myself. I've never seen anyone be wrong as often as I've seen law enforcement collectively. I honestly think if a person got randomly stabbed and carjacked they'd arrest the victim who was bleeding and tell him he is jaywalking as he stumbles to a hospital gushing blood. I mean, in 47 years of a life of witnessing thousands of situations where police and sheriffs are called or arrive I have seen them do the wrong thing 100% of the time with no real exceptions. I've seen them (as a youth) rape a drunken teenage girl, seen them harrass, seen them beat people down who witnessed a crime but didn't participate, seen them protect people who lead a life of crime because they have a vagina, seen them arrest people who are innocent on behalf of the person(s) who committed the crime, seen them steal, lie, and every bad act a person can think of...I've just never seen them do any good, or protect the innocent. I've nevér seen them recover stolen goods, but I've seen them arrest people who don't steal. --This is why I think a person would be safer if there were NO law enforcement agencies, but instead maybe a neighborhood watch and on rare occasions a peoples' militia made up of random people of diverse backgrounds to bring chronic offenders before a court of their actual peers to determine if they've actually committed any crime or if there's only a misunderstanding or dispute.

Eli Samuel Goldman

This is why I'm not surprised that the wealthy and biggoted were able to manipulate the media and colluded with foreign criminals to make the worst criminal in the last 100 years of our country's history the President of the United States, and hence, in charge of ALL law enforcement agencies. OF COURSE he can't be impeached and indicted, he has power over all evidence against him, every agency, all witnesses and every court/state. He has the power to remove anyone's rights without explanation and take secret *security* actions against anyone he wants without the public even knowing, and a whole misinformation network worldwide to cover his crimes! With how uneducated/miseducated and easily influenced by media The People of the USA have become Id be shocked if he didn't win considering his career of scams, wrongs, and wealth-backed elitist entitlement to G_d-like autonomy.

Eli Samuel Goldman

Before I continue about the six years of daily and night cruelty, crime and abuse I suffered from the people of Oklahoma due to my political stance against the white-supremicist-Trump and his all civil-rights-destroying-unqualified-cabinet of questionables, I would like to be clear about how I feel about the career-criminal-white-supremicist Donald J. Trump: Trump is find of white supremicist views from the pre-civil-war olden days. And he likes to have people harmed such as he did with me while publishing it as a profit-making media event. He even agrees with torture as a means to get a confession such as water-boarding. So I suggest we water-board and torture him to help in getting a confession to ease convicting him of Treason. Then, in keeping with his extremist "eye for an eye" old-fashioned views on how to deal with the worst criminals, such as Donald J Trump himself, I further suggest we deal with him the way his old school white-supremicist predecessors dealt with people like Trump who commit Treason. We should hang Trump in front of his family by the neck until dead or execute him publically. And in keeping with his far-right *conservative* policies I think we should turn his execution into a pay-per-view media event, and put product placements around him. "This execution of a former U.S. President fot treason is brought to you by Coca Cola..." We can donate the proceeds to a fund to help the families of those soldiers who died in the war he started, and Veterans wounded in the war. Not only is it fair, but torturing then hanging Donald J. Trump until he's dead is in keeping with his own philosophies as well as what people link Trump have done to others who commit Treason like Trump himself. Much like John Brown (1858), Aaron Dwight Stevens (1860), and William Bruce Mumford (1862), Trump will receive old school conservative justice as his body twitches till he goes limp while his children look onward at his dangling limp carcass.

Eli Samuel Goldman

Since it has been made abundantly obvious that Trump's people and Trump himself follow what I do, say and write. That he loves real life media events--as a reality TV mogul--shows that harm people for the goulish entertainment of others, even in front of their families and lovedones. And since I know he's never hesitated to act above U.S. Laws, and believes in old fashioned solutions I issue him the following challenge (and yes, I'm serious). -- I CHALLENGE the white-supremicist-terrorist Donald J. Trump to a duel. The rules: live rounds till death at 75 feet; pace, turn and fire. Gun chambers must be emptied of all unspent bullets till one of us is dead! All people within 3 miles to be searched for guns so he doesn't have someone do the shooting for him. The guns will be tested by firing at a target each in advance to ensure accuracy and function. It must be made a TV event, product placements and ads galore, his family must be close at hand to watch him die, and a special pay-per-view setup with all proceeds going entire to charities chosen by the surviving gunman. Donald Trump is a coward who only picks on the weak and those smaller than him or less powerful, and his ego is bigger than North America, so one would think he'd love the chance to finally kill me broadcast internationally as a media event live.

Eli Samuel Goldman

I'd like to thank ACLU for protecting my freedom of speech. It's a shame Carl Paladino abused it. Perhaps if he went back to Italy (where he belongs) he would have been taught respect for a First Lady, and most Italians I've known are considerate, well mannered and respectful to women. Not at all the greasy slimebucket movie-style cliche *WOP* Carl Paladino acts like. I thought people like Carl only existed in cheesy mobster flicks. No real life Italian or Italian American talks like him, unless he's trying to make a point to a racist slimebucket. ....A person should be respectful to a First Lady. Defend her honor. For instance, I can't tell you how many times I had to correct people when they speculate on what kind of Russian Prostitute Melania Trump was prior to gold-digging-into-the-Trump family. While I realize they have a constitutional right to ask such relevant questions about Melonia's (alleged) sordid past, I reprehensible. So often do people raise this question: "Was she a mailorder bride after being Trump's favorite whore, or was she a whore who became a Russian spy?" And every time they do I feel shocked and outraged. Asking such a disrespectful thing is almost as bad as someone saying to Barack Obama's family that when he leaves the Whitehouse it "won't be the first time I kicked a black family out of their home." Who would say such a racist thing? Melonia's past as an (alleged) two-ruble-a-turn-street-walker --IF TRUE-- is entirely her private life and nobody's business. It's not like we as a society now have devolved where we've gotten rid of common decency and any shred of human integrity like if we had *legalized surveillance of any American, invading their privacy, or *violate every right a man has against his will to help a presidential candidate in an election. We are still American's and we will show some decorum damnit. Even to the Trump whores.

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