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Group's idea to change discrimination definition proves faulty

There’s a move afoot to broaden the city of Shreveport’s nondiscrimination practices in hiring and firing to include sexual orientation and “gender identity” (meaning somebody who is of one sex but wishes to physically appear using conventions commonly associated with the other). Doing so would constitute a major departure from the existing philosophy behind the definition of a targeted group and on “discrimination.”

The concept of discrimination by government confuses many, as evidenced by the mayor’s spokeswoman Liz Swaine’s reaction that the city charter's Section 14.12 statement that “No person in the classified service or who is an applicant for a position therein shall be appointed, promoted, reduced or removed or in any way favored or discriminated against because of his … sex” means the matter already is settled.

For one thing, government and public policy made by it always discriminates in one form or another. By way of example, federal and state tax laws treat higher- and lower-income people very differently, by taxing the former at a much higher rate. In terms of personal liberties, murderers are discriminated against heavily, with those convicted of it looking at, the very least, long prison terms severely curtailing their liberties, and potentially even state-sanctioned taking of their lives.

Since discrimination is a hallmark of government action, the question becomes, when does it become appropriate? In the former cases, as a people we have decided that these are matters to be defined by our constitutions and lawmakers. Some instances of it, however, are considered so difficult to justify that they are given a very special status requiring very stringent government protections by government from their occurrences.

The charter lists two distinct categories of things for which the city cannot discriminate in its own practices for its classified employees. First are the immutables of race, sex, and national origin. These are characteristics about people over which they have no control – you’re born with certain equipment, and of a certain ethnic background. There exists almost universal agreement today in America that prejudicial treatment should not occur against individuals because of their genes.

But the charter also specifies a category of attitudes and behaviors – religious and political beliefs. As recognized above in the example about behavior that is murderous, government is much more open to discriminating against people on the basis of their behavior as behavior is a choice made by the person with some of those choices being suboptimal to the greater good of society or even that person (such as prostitution). Why are these attitudes, which will translate into certain behaviors (voting, religious observations, etc.), protected as if they were immutable characteristics about people?

This is because these two things have a direct relationship to the activities of government. Obviously, political beliefs matter in a democracy, and religious belief (or lack of it) often plays a strong role in the formation of those political beliefs for the individual. In a system of government where votes matter and where the vote often is formed on the basis of political attitudes, democracy would not work were this kind of discrimination allowed.

Another thing of note is the procedures of the classified personnel system are highly biased in favor of the use of merit to determine personnel decisions. Section 14.7 and following sections would make it difficult not to hire, to demote, not to promote, or to fire employees on non-merit bases.

Understanding these concepts highlights Swain’s confusion, as well as that of the supporters of this change. “Sex” is something people are, while “sexual orientation” is something people choose. That you are “male” or “female” (or, in very rare circumstances, “intersexed”) is a matter of genetics, while who you express sexuality with is a behavioral matter, defined solely by its expression. (Beware the trendy idea that sexual preference is a genetic matter; long ago the idea that there’s a “gay gene” was debunked and the evidence continues to mount against its existence.)

Thus, what the proponents ask is to change the city’s entire philosophy of how defines discrimination so insidious that it bans such activity in its employment practices, vastly expanding “protected” categories to those that involve behavior that have nothing to do with the political process and freedom of political belief and association. This would invite the addition of spurious categories to the protected list and simultaneously cheapen the protections of the existing categories, making the latter more prone to future alteration, and thus watering-down. Such mischief must be avoided, which is why the advocates of this change err in supporting it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No. Whom you have sex with is a choice. Whom you are attracted to is not. Genetics are not the end of this. Many immutable aspects of human adults are not defined by genetics, rather they are determined and influenced by environmental and developmental factors. Until we have definitive proof that your beliefs regarding sexual orientation are true, we should give homosexuals the benefit of the doubt. In other words, if homosexuals say it is not a choice, why should we not believe them? With no clear evidence to the contrary? Too much is at stake to simply toss aside the opinions of the only real experts on the subject. We must assume that an individual knows more about his own choices (or lack thereof) than anyone else.