Thursday, November 8, 2007

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That...

But the House just passed a bill to "end" discrimination against homosexuals in the workplace:

The House bill would make it illegal for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment of the individual, because of such individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation.”

I think it is fundamentally wrong to fire someone because they are discovered to be homosexual and I think it is foolish for an employer not to hire someone strictly based on their sexual preferences (provided those preferences are practiced with consenting adults). That said, to do either should not be illegal. An employer's money is just that - their money. They should be able to do with that money what they see fit.

But, as Andrew Sullivan points out, not giving these protections to homosexuals isn't really fair:

But every other minority is federally protected from discrimination in employment; it is increasingly a form of prejudice to say that gay people can be fired at will from their jobs just for being who they are.
But prejudice in and of itself is not against the law-- nor should it be in the private sector. He does concede that his "libertarian heart is not thrilled by it" -- and rightly so. Just because something isn't "right" is no excuse to make it "illegal."

Let's go back to the law -- "perceived" orientation?

There is a gay couple I know back in my home state of Indiana. One, whom I will refer to as Jim, is a hard-working, responsible, respectful guy -- and a personal friend. The other, I'll call Barry, is a self-absorbed ├╝ber-diva who has trouble finishing a sentence without calling someone else a "bitch" or a "cunt."

If I owned a business, I would hire Jim in a heartbeat. I wouldn't hire Barry if you paid me.

Now, Barry's work history aside, I have made this decision based on his personality, which is overtly "gay." It is not reflective of gay people at large -- for in my many interactions with gay and straight men I have not met another man like Barry (thankfully) -- but one could not mistake the fact that Barry is gay. If for no other reason, he wouldn't let you forget it.

But Jim makes no secret of his lifestyle either. He openly discusses gay issues, wears modest gay pride jewelry, and yuks it up with the girls at his place of business. His attitude is certainly not "butch" by any stretch of the imagination and a lot of people are not particularly surprised when they find out he's gay.

I could, theoretically, be taken to court for not hiring Barry under this law because I perceived a "gay" personality that affected my decision -- even though I would hire another openly gay man if given the opportunity. While my decision has nothing to do with his sexual preference, I could be forced to prove my fairness in court.

This issue all boils down to the fact that we cannot legislate fair minds. For minorities -- be they black, Asian, gay or whatever -- success comes harder. That is undeniably "unfair" -- but that is the way it is and has been for generations. Only through personal diligence, academic success, and increasing numbers of upstanding citizens from these groups can we lessen the stereotypes and bigotry which still exist all around us.

Furthermore, putting Barry in a job because an otherwise hostile employer fears a lawsuit will only hamper the efforts of gay acceptance because the employer will be forced to "tolerate" him. Toleration and acceptance are NOT the same thing.

President Bush should veto this not because homosexuals don't deserve fair treatment; he should veto this because they DO.

1 comment:

Malou said...

I understand where you're coming from, and I actually agree. Unfortunately, our ideas don't exist in a vacuum. You and I have to finesse our points more so than others, lest we sound like the backwards and barbaric heathens our ancestors rose in rebellion to overthrow.