Merging Offensive-Speech Cases with Viewpoint-Discrimination Principles: The Immediate Impact of Matal v. Tam on Two Strands of First Amendment Jurisprudence
This Article examines flaws with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Matal v. Tam that equated giving offense with viewpoint discrimination. Already, the Court’s language in Tam that “giving offense is a viewpoint” is being cited by multiple lower courts. This Article argues, however, that giving offense is not synonymous with viewpoint discrimination. This Article contends that the Court in Tam conflated two distinct strands of First Amendment jurisprudence—namely, its offensive-speech cases with principles against viewpoint discrimination. The Article proposes two possible paths forward to help courts better clarify when a case such as Tam should be analyzed as an offensive-speech case and when it should be treated as a case involving viewpoint-based discrimination.