A vehicle for tyranny?

This is in response to Mr. Hale’s letter on Nov. 18 claiming non-discrimination statutes are a vehicle for tyranny. If a person has to begin their argument by claiming they are not a bigot, the odds are they are. The letter asks what precisely is fair about LGBT being given a specially protected legal status the author does not share. The author obviously does not share the protected status of women, people of color, people of other religions, people of disability and those of other national origins, and so far has had the good sense not to be railing about those well-established protections.

The letter alleges NDS will allow LGBT people to terrify and harass and file frivolous lawsuits. Experience with state employment non-discrimination laws has shown this argument to be false. There has simply been no notable increase in litigation in states that have enacted LGBT non-discrimination laws. In fact, the rate remains similar to gender and race claims.

The lengthy argument that these NDS statutes crumble the presumption of innocence in our law rings hollow. If a person of color, sex, disability, religion or other national origin alleges a wrong against one of our local businesses because of their status, they have to show a prima facie case that this is true. Then and only then, the defendant has to show this was not the case. If no prima facie case is shown, the defendant can have the case dismissed. The arguments were used when women, people of color, people of disability, etc. sought rights and protections and those trains have long left the station.

It’s likely the author is a religious white male citizen of the U.S. and does not need NDS. It is obvious the author does not want another encroachment against his libertarian/religious sense of order in this forever changing world. There are, however, no consistent, principled libertarian distinctions between “good” anti-discrimination laws that protect racial or religious minorities and women and “bad” laws that protect gay and transgender people. If civil rights laws unconstitutionally restrict individual freedom to discriminate, they restrict it regardless of the group they seek to protect. If religious freedom includes a right to discriminate against gay people, why, for example, doesn’t it include a right to discriminate against women? Why shouldn’t an employer who deems it sinful or a violation of some divine order for women to work outside the home or in traditionally male jobs have the same First Amendment right to discriminate as an employer who considers homosexuality a sin?

If there’s nothing special about protecting women and racial minorities from discrimination, then there’s nothing special about protecting gay people. Enacting the particular NDS that you rail against would not extend any different equality rights than those already well established for these other groups. Everyone should be treated the same as neutrality offends no one but protects everyone.

The walls that divide us are crumbling, Mr. Hale, and the direction of this train is toward justice for all. All aboard … we’ll save a seat for you.

Jim Wilt