Georgia Legislature passes college free speech bill

Some critics of the legislation said the measure was unnecessarily vague and that it could protect extremists who descend onto a college campus.

Updated: April 7, 2022 - 3:32pm

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Georgia lawmakers approved legislation they say would eliminate so-called "free speech zones" on college campuses.

House Bill 1, the Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act, ostensibly aims to protect free speech rights anywhere on a college campus, not just in a designated area. It now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, for his signature.

"Protecting the right to free speech on college campuses is critical," Americans for Prosperity - Georgia (AFP-GA) Deputy State Director Tony West said in a statement. "This bill will ensure that public colleges and universities do not have ambiguous speech policies that lead to administrative overreach and the censoring of students and staff. We look forward to Governor Kemp signing this bill into law."

However, some critics of the legislation said the measure was unnecessarily vague and that it could protect extremists who descend onto a college campus.

"When we start to look at the motives, it comes from a myth that conservatives are being discriminated against on college campuses, which we heard over and over again at the committee hearing," said state Rep. David Dreyer, D-Atlanta, on CBS 46.

The state Senate passed another piece of legislation, Senate Bill 171, inspired by protests nationwide over the past two years. Proponents said it would punish protestors who commit crimes, while critics said it would stifle the right to protest.

However, the state House did not pass the measure before the session expired.