Perspectives: Discrimination shouldn’t be a criminal act

OPINION – It’s not right to treat others rudely. But turning rudeness into a crime creates more problems than it solves. Especially when liberty, justice, and equal protection of property rights take a back seat to hurt feelings.

An anti-discrimination bill is currently making big waves in the Utah state senate after passing out of committee last week. SB 262 seeks to modify the Utah Anti-discrimination and Utah Fair Housing Acts by adding language that affords protection to individuals in housing and employment based on “gender identity” and “sexual orientation”. But this type of legislation typically seeks to afford such protection by attaching criminal penalties to certain unpopular thoughts.

Sponsoring senator Steve Urquhart sought to assuage concerns that SB 262 was simply repackaged hate-crimes legislation. “This is a bill for equal rights;” he said, “it’s not about thoughts but actions.”

Thankfully, Brandie Balkan of Equality Utah was more forthright when, following the committee vote last week, she said: “Today for first time, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community of Utah can see demonstrated progress in attitudes.”

So, at least to the special interest group that has spent years lobbying for these anti-discrimination laws, this legislation really is more about creating legally enforceable approved attitudes.

There are two major problems with this approach and neither has anything to do with justifying treating homosexuals or anyone else badly.

The first is that government has no proper authority to force us to hire, rent to, or even accept others. It can only do so by infringing on our rights to use our property as we best see fit or by restricting our freedom of association. This is contrary to why we institute government in the first place.

John Locke, in his Second Treatise on Civil Government, wrote: “The great and chief end … of men’s uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.” Anti-discrimination laws presume to force property owners into using their property only in accordance with government-approved attitudes.

To demonstrate the irrationality of using government force to coerce property owners into doing business with those whom they might not wish to associate, consider the following.

If a group of skinheads were to apply for work at a black-owned store, should the owner of that store be required by law to hire them? Likewise, if a homosexual landlord refuses to rent a property to members of the Westboro Baptist Church, should he be fined or otherwise punished? Or should the rights of each property owner to use his or her property as they see fit be respected, even if it means that some may choose to turn others away?

As Libertas Institute founder Connor Boyack has pointed out, opposing SB 262 doesn’t mean that a person wants to see homosexuals or anyone else kicked out of their housing or fired from their jobs. Boyack notes that, “it simply means that the government does not have the authority to punish property owners for it.”

The second problem associated with anti-discrimination laws is that they conflate discrimination with actual criminal acts that cause provable, objective harm to others. Hurt feelings are not the same thing as suffering actual damage to one’s person or property through the force or fraud of another.

Discrimination is a necessary part of human nature. Every decision we make requires the ability to discriminate between what will provide the outcome we seek and what will not. From the moment we set foot in any business, we become discriminators. We choose our food, our friends, our clothing, even our entertainment through a discriminatory process.

Discrimination is a legitimate discovery tool that enables us to make those decisions that best solve our problems. Why should this be any different for an employer or a property owner?

Writer Manuel Lora sums it up like this: “Discrimination is nothing but the assertion of property rights. It matters not one whit whether the property is your money, your land, your home or a restaurant: these policies are legitimate – and oftentimes necessary – tools to ensure a desired result.”

Treating discrimination as a crime substitutes the state’s judgment for our own and places enforceable obligations upon us at the expense of personal liberty.

No one deserves to be treated poorly. But the Golden Rule is a more effective means of persuading others to change their attitudes.

John Locke said it best, “To love our neighbor as ourselves is such a truth for regulating human society, that by that alone one might determine all the cases in social morality.”

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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41 Comments

  • Sally March 11, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Wow, nice homophobic article! Your examples of skinheads and the Westboro Church are mostly out of the realm of possibility. Why would a skinhead apply at a black workplace? Why would anyone from Westboro want to rent from a homosexual (if they even knew someone was homosexual)? A more appropriate comparison might be (as we ARE talking about discrimination) that a black person wants to rent from a white person or vice versa. Is it ok for them to discriminate too? They just want equal rights the same as anyone else- period. You have a right to your opinion and so do I. You wonder why people from all over the U.S. say that UT is so backward? Time to get over your homophobia- it’s 2013 and the LGBT community is here to stay. For the record, I am not LGBT, I am an ally and proud of it!

    • mark March 11, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      That isn’t a homophobic argument. That is the natual logic for people whose minds haven’t been warped by political correctness.

  • A Vet March 11, 2013 at 11:35 am

    WOW, that is all I can say, I can see why civil rights are needed, your approach would set us back in this country to the Civil Rights. I bet you have a White onyl bathroom in you house huh. and 6 cchildren, well maybe one of them will be better than you.

  • Hatalii March 11, 2013 at 11:44 am

    It seems to me that this is just another unnecessary piece of legislation, sponsored by a person who is far more interested in seeing that his name is out in front of the public, than from any desire to right any wrong, or do anything to further the interest of the State of Utah, or the people who live there.

  • Wes March 11, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I somewhat agree and somewhat disagree with this article. Government is forced to accept everyone no matter what. The Vet and Sally, it is not the governments responsibility to tell us who we should or should not do business with unless it comes to a person private business. This over reaching of government is the exact reason why we are so many problems today.

    It does amuse me however, that the same people who are screaming for equal rights for homosexuals are taking away the rights of smokers and gun owners. Why is it that I cannot have a bar and allow people to smoke in it. If you do not like the smoke then don’t come to my bar. Why is it that I am not allowed to carry a gun with me when I go somewhere. If I get robbed or people try to assault me, I want to be able to protect myself. You take away the rights of some people while ensuring the rights of others are not trampled on. You force me to do business in a way that I do not want to do business and then allow people to kill their unborn babies. You consider a single cell organism like bacteria to be called life but you allow people to claim that a fetus that is still in the womb to be called non-living and allow people to kill the baby.

    People are backwards and messed up. Yes, it might be wrong to not do business with someone who is gay or a radical of some sort, but that is that persons right to not want to associate with those people. If you do not like it then do not do business with the people that turn those people away instead of forcing people to act and behave in a way that you think they should act.

  • Corey Howard March 11, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    To me, this legislation is CLEARLY necessary-and as a resident of Utah, it furthers my interests. It does not take the least bit of imagination or search of history to realize that a great portion of the populace need laws to prevent unfair discrimination. Left to their own devices, humanity has promoted things like child labor, gender disparity in the workplace, unfair wages, slavery, and wildly hazardous building codes.

    If I, as a woman am discriminated against at my job, I know I can take my evidence and approach our legal system to be heard. This legislation would provide the same avenues of recourse to those whose employment and residency rights are infringed upon. Simple.

  • William March 11, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Well written article, from my perspective. I appreciate that great care was taken to avoid portraying a homophobic viewpoint. Two previous commentators obviously missed that important distinct made at the outset of the article.
    With respect to Hatalii’s comment, I had the same impression of the legislator simply seeking notoriety rather than seriously addressing a relevant issue (well before your post).
    I’m going to use two phrases, “post-Freud” and pre-Freud”, to suggest a quandary facing society. Pre-Freud society (individually and collectively) concerned itself with injury and violence in the physical realm (“provable, objective harm”). Post-Freud society began, and has accelerated, the concept of emotional harm (far less provable). As Mr. Hyde demonstrates (intentionally or not) society has built laws around hypothetical injury, or, in other words “insults”.
    Hypothetical injuries rank right up there with Sherlock Holmes detective theory of elimination. According to the historic detective when the evidence eliminates all other reason and causes, what remains must be the truth No Matter How Improbable. Sadly, emotional injury does not come close to eliminating all OTHER reason and causes. One obvious cause of emotional injury is self-inflicted narcissism.
    As pointed out in this “fair and balanced” article government does not have an obligation to provide special protection for a post-Freud society for those who would claim a need for special protection from their self-imposed offenses. Governments should act solely for the benefit of their whole society equally, not special interests with society. When taken in this perspective government necessarily remains small and manageable. Segregated societies, according to the demands of a few, grows ever increasingly cost and efficient and ineffective.

  • Anna March 11, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Obviously the writer of this article has never experienced discrimination.Too bad, it would give him a whole different perspective into how being discriminated against unfairly affects people and humanity as a whole. If we don’t punish those that discriminate based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, ect… then we are allowing violations of civil rights. I can see an employer denying a job to someone who is unqualified, or a landlord not accepting a tenant due to previous evictions or inability to pay the rent. But that has nothing to do with skin color or gender identity. If I am a qualified person then I should have the same opportunity as anyone else. If you don’t like playing by fair rules, then get out of the game and don’t be a landlord or an employer.

  • Eric March 11, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    This is a straw man argument! Comparing GLBT people to skin heads and westboro baptist church members is intellectually dishonest. By that same logic I could say that all laws are bad and prove it by saying that someone could create a law forcing you to murder or rape someone. We don’t live in a perfect world and these people are being denied housing and employment, the most basic of human needs for something which they have no control over. This should be a crime. Utah has some of the highest rates of homelessnes and suicide for GLBT people (especially youth) in the country, and your right of ‘freedom to be a jerk’ (ie. let’s keep people we don’t like from being allowed basic human rights in order to protect the rights of their oppressors) should not come at the cost of our children’s lives! Comparing them to these horrible groups and creating scare tactics and propaganda based upon logical fallacies is unacceptable. You have every right to your opinion, but I and other’s who believe we can build a better world for our children have every right to challenge those opinions in the marketplace of ideas when they contain dangerous, inflammatory, and dishonest rhetoric.

    • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde March 11, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      Eric, what these groups (and others that were not mentioned) have in common is that all of them struggle at some level for broader acceptance. Would it be appropriate for blacks to discriminate against skinheads or for homosexuals to discriminate against Westboro Baptist members? Or is discrimination wrong no matter what?

      • Eric March 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm

        There are two separate issues at play here. The first is wether we are talking about actions or who we are biologically. The other is the difference between ‘equality’ and ‘equal opportunity before the law’. I would argue that people choose to be members of these hate groups, whereas gender, gender identity, race, etc are not chosen, they are who we are. I guess my point is that not all people are what you would call ‘equal’ but they should all have ‘equal opportunity in front of the law’ … this means that if I apply for a job or for housing, that my actions and abilities should very well be taken into account, but who I am biologically should not. To directly respond to your question, due to the actions of these organizations a black person should be able to deny them employment or housing, because they would have reasonable reason to believe that they would hurt their property or their business by being racist to customers. I would not say that a black person should be able to discriminate against a white person (which is what your argument would need to be, to be considered appropriate, and not a straw man argument).

        • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde March 11, 2013 at 5:21 pm

          That’s quite a smoke screen of qualifiers you’ve laid down. But after cutting through it, you’re plainly admitting that you support discrimination against some people but not against your pet subsets of society. Pretty inconsistent for someone who is touting “equality before the law”.

          I greatly appreciate if you could explain exactly how pointing out how anti-discrimination laws could actually harm the rights of homosexual or other minority property owners constitutes a “strawman” argument.

          • Eric March 11, 2013 at 6:59 pm

            I laid out my position. Under your definition not letting a murderer watch my children would be discrimination. I disagree. I believe there is a difference between judging based upon someone’s actions vs their skin color. Obviously you disagree.

          • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde March 12, 2013 at 3:27 am

            Eric, I think we both agree that treating others poorly does nothing to make the world a better place. The question you’re avoiding is whether it is appropriate for government to violate the rights of property owners by forcing them to associate with those whom, for any reason whatsoever, the property owner does not wish to associate. Aside from your willingness to condone discrimination against certain unpopular groups, I’m still not sure what your position is.

          • ken March 13, 2013 at 9:15 am

            So you think it’s ok to discriminate against people who cannot change who they are. While eric thinks it’s ok to discriminate against people who have been mislead to hate a specific group of people. You seriously don’t see a difference between discriminating against someones DNA and discriminating against a group literally based on hatred of another.

  • William March 11, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    What gives anyone the right to demand particular behavior from another? Just as the gay/lesbian community would not want anyone to require them to be in a bi-sexual relationship, why should they be able to dictate that others engage in their homosexual environment? No harm is done isolating oneself from certain behaviors. Yet, great harm can be done forcing a person to live in association with those choose not to. The legal culture in America is built on the premise of equity for all UNDER THE LAW. That culture has rejected legal segregation of classes. So, why is a legislator now trying to instill segregation into our legal system? Either because he does not understand the system or is blatantly pandering to certain segments of the society as support for his gubernatorial run in 4 years.

  • Ron March 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    As a 30-year resident of rural Virginia, I can tell you for a fact that if government had not sepped in and limited the right of property and business owners to discriminate, the South would still be segregated, and African-Americans living there would still be suffering under Jim Crow rules. Bryan, you need to realize that reason and logic must be tempered by compassion and a recognition that human beings are often motivated by greed and fear. Why do you think the Romantics in the 19th century rebelled against the rule of Reason? Expand your “Great Books” curriculum to include William Blake and the fourth book of “Gulliver’s Travels” to see where an adherence to pure Reason leads you.

    • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde March 11, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      How exactly does using force equate with “compassion”? Is it a proper function of government to violate property rights in the name of forcing people to think only approved thoughts? That sounds great for a Soviet model but not quite compatible with a free nation.

      • Snowfield March 13, 2013 at 9:17 am

        So you’re for allowing segregation in the name of “freedom””? Does the supreme irony of that stance completely escape you?

  • JJ Slice March 11, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    First point, this legislation is a red-herring in that anti-discrmination laws do very little in practice to reduce or eliminate discrimination. The same Utah act that Urquhart is trying to amend already prohibits employment discrimination based on race, gender, pregnancy, religion, national origin or disability. Lets be honest, potential employees are discriminated against every single day based on the very characteristics listed. Adding sexual orienattion to the list will not cause discrimination to be reduced. It will however make LGBT supporters feel happy and likely increase the marijuana sales for a weekend or two.

    Second point, Urquhart is doing this to catch some headlines after all the negative press he has had about the way he sand-bagged Dixie Ambulance. Urquhart overestimates his political assets and misjudges his constituents. From my view, this is another black mark on his record and he is losing support of the conservative majority in his district.

    I will not vote for Urquhart again. I hope the legislation fails mostly because I’m getting tired of government greasing squeaky wheels while the hay wagon above is a roaring dumpster-fire.

    What are the chances Urquhart will propose legislation that addresses an actual problem and that provides an actual solution? 0%

  • William March 11, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    JJ-Well said.

    To the rest of you: Where do you draw the line on Government compelling others to be good people? You can’t because it is impossible. The same government that can make you act like you love your neighbor is the one that can require you to be a live organ donor to that same neighbor…against your wishes.

    It is pure foolishness on the part of any legislator to simply introduce more laws so that he can stay “active” in the public arena.

  • Kevin March 11, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    HEAR HEAR! The LORD hath spoken that homosexuality is a SIN. As did the Prophets of the BOOK OF MORMON. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. The righteous will prevail and you libtards are going to BURN IN HELL. We will be laughing at YOU.

  • Randy T March 11, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Bryan, you are exactly the reason why a non-discrimination bill is necessary in the first place!

  • Karen March 12, 2013 at 6:26 am

    Just when I think we have made progress as a nation, we get a group of people who want to go back in time to “the good old days” before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Having lived and watched this era firsthand, I bristle whenever people try to revisit these issues with their quaint philosophical musings about government. Mr. Hyde has only repeated the same arguments that were made fifty years ago, and guess what, the nation decided that they were false arguments and passed the bills. Maybe our education system is at fault for not teaching the history of civil rights in this nation. Maybe that is why we have to keep reliving the same arguments every 50 years.

  • Chuck Anziulewicz March 12, 2013 at 7:20 am

    DEAR BRYAN HYDE:

    You write, “Government has no proper authority to force us to hire, rent to, or even accept others. It can only do so by infringing on our rights to use our property as we best see fit or by restricting our freedom of association.”

    Gee, why even have civil rights laws to begin with? You seem to find discriminating against Gay people innocuous enough. How about discrimination against Jews or Blacks or Asians? There was once a time when such discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation was quite common. Do you think we should return to those dark days? I certainly don’t.

    • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde March 12, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      Are you suggesting that those dark days came to an end with forced association law? If that’s the case, then why do we need more and more laws creating an ever-shrinking circle of things we’re allowed to do? The principle at stake isn’t whether insensitive behavior should be a crime, it’s whether such laws violate the limits of what good government is supposed to do. Protection of life, liberty and property are proper functions of good government. Forcing people to like one another is not.

      • Chuck Anziulewicz March 13, 2013 at 9:03 am

        DEAR BRYAN:

        No one could ever force you to like someone you don’t like. If you despise people who are Gay or Black or Jewish or WHATEVER (not to suggest you actually ARE), you have every right to your prejudices. But your personal prejudices should not trump another person’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” nor should they trump fair and equal treatment under the 14th Amendment. This is what our civil rights laws are based on.

      • Snowfield March 13, 2013 at 9:12 am

        Finally you admit to being against civil rights. Thanks for admitting it. openly.

        • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde March 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm

          It appears that neither you nor Chuck clearly understand the difference between rights and civil rights. Natural rights are what limit the power of government over us. So-called civil rights are simply legal obligations that increase government power over us. The fair and equal treatment of the 14th Amendment is binding on government, not on us as individuals. This may come as a shock, but people still tend to hang with those with whom they have something in common or with whom they feel most comfortable. That’s a form of segregation. The kind you’re referencing was a form of bad law–just like these anti-discrimination laws.

  • Human March 12, 2013 at 7:50 am

    I would hate for a St George employer to be allowed to discriminate against me because I am not a Mormon and can’t name what ward I’m in, can’t name the Ward’s Bishop, don’t have a coveted “Ward Recommend”, etc…

    It was not long ago, rental listings posted at Dixie State College required applicants to have “LDS Standards”, meaning, if you weren’t mormon, don’t apply.

    DISCRIMINATION is very much present in Southern Utah. People who are used to it have become blind to it.

    • Hatalii March 12, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      I agree that there is much discrimination here as far as opportunities for non LDS to find employment. However I do think that it has gotten much better over the past 15 to 20 years. There are enough non LDS folks in this area now, that they just don’t have the problems they used to.

      However, if anyone thinks they are going to move to a predominantly LDS society, and “fit right in,” then they are just not being realistic. The same would be true in moving to any community that has one predominate religion.

      As far as sexual preference discrimination is concerned, why should it even be an issue. Unless somebody goes around talking about their sexual preference all the time, it just shouldn’t be a problem. And whatever your sexual orientation is, if you go around talking about it all the time, then you have a problem.

  • JJ Slice March 12, 2013 at 10:23 am

    I discrimante against job applicants with face or neck tattoos every time. Are you rights activists saying that the government has the right to force me to hire applicants with face or neck tattoos?

    • Karen March 12, 2013 at 11:05 am

      In a word, no. Generally tattoos are considered a dress code issue. It is perfectly legal not to hire people with tattoos or body jewelry. It is up to employers..

  • Chuck Anziulewicz March 12, 2013 at 11:06 am

    DEAR JJ SLICE:

    Anyone who gets a big flaming green skull tattooed on the side of his neck either knows it’s going to impact negatively on his ability to get hired by a law firm or a bank, or he isn’t likely to care anyway. But of course this is a red herring. There is no civil rights movement afoot amongst tattoo enthusiasts.

    If you think you should be allowed to discriminate against people based on their race or ethnicity or religion, just say so, OK?

  • Chuck Anziulewicz March 12, 2013 at 11:19 am

    DEAR JJ SLICE:

    Employers have always been able to enforce codes of personal appearance, dress, and grooming, and I think that probably includes visible tattoos. But why would you want to fire an other hardworking employee just because of who he’s dating on his own personal time?

  • William March 12, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    This is all really dumb. What right does your neighbor have to say you must vacuum your carpet? That is exactly the same thing s as saying the government has a right to tell you who you can and can’t hire. If you choose to oppose the gay lifestyle that is your right. If you loose business because nobody agrees with you, that is the consequence of your opinion. The same thing applies to being gay. If you don’t get hired, or if you get fired, because you are gay, that is the consequence. Live with your choices people. Don’t go whining to the government when people don’t like you because of the choices you make. Be a Human Being. You don’t need the approval of others to live.

    • Ron March 13, 2013 at 6:26 am

      William, did you make a conscious choice to be heterosexual? Were you turned on by guys but decided, hey, I think I’ll start looking at chicks instead because I want to avoid “the consequences” of being gay? Do you really think gays choose to be gay so they can be picked on, threatened, abused, and discriminated against? I mean, what’s the upside? Come on, be real. It’s not a choice.

      • William March 13, 2013 at 9:29 am

        No.
        No.
        Yes-they choose; No, not to be harassed
        There is none.
        Yes, it is..

    • ken March 13, 2013 at 9:11 am

      being gay isn’t a choice willy, and the government isn’t saying “hire him because he is gay and gays deserve jobs too”, it’s saying “just don’t discriminate against him because he is gay”. People aren’t choosing to be gay. Also the vacuum analogy is outrageous, how is your neighbor telling you to clean your house exactly the same as the government telling people not to discriminate against someone based on their unchangeable dna. If the roles were reversed and you were a white hetero guy, who wanted to work in child care, but couldn’t because they are biased in hiring only women, wouldn’t you be upset?

  • William March 13, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Yes, it is a choice.
    No.

  • Hatalii March 13, 2013 at 11:01 am

    I have no idea whether being gay is a “choice” or not. Frankly, I could care less what anyone’s sexual proclivities are, as long as they don’t try to force their choice on me.

    I don’t believe people should be discriminated against for stuff like this. But I do believe that a landlord should have the choice to rent to whom he pleases, and I believe an employer should have the right to hire who he pleases.

    If the landlord or employer choose to be a bigot, so be it. This person will have a lot to answer for at some point in the future.

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