How much does free speech mean if we're scared to use it?

There's a court battle going on in Washington State over whether your name should be public information if you sign a petition to put a measure on the ballot. The measure that brought this up would reverse a state law that expanded the rights of same-sex partners, and petitioners claimed that gay rights activists are so hostile that they might scare some people away from signing. A lower court judge agreed and said keeping the petition signatures private was a reasonable way to prevent this "chilling effect" on political expression.
You can get caught up in the surface-level arguments in this case. But set those aside and reflect for a moment. Are we really accepting the fact that intimidating people for expressing their opinion is part of our political culture? Why?
This week's column calls for something different. In these times it might sound naive. But where do we end up if we take political intimidation as a fact of modern life?

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