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.
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