OPINION –His anti-discrimination bill S.B. 100 has been shelved for the moment, but Sen. Steve Urquhart remains resolute in seeking its passage. Urquhart’s intentions appear noble: to prevent housing or employment discrimination based upon a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
But expanding the state’s power and increasing its control over us is not the way to accomplish this goal.
The problem isn’t that Urquhart’s proposed amendments seek to address issues related to acceptance of homosexuals. It’s that they would add yet another layer to an already unnecessary law against discrimination.
On its surface, the proposed legislation purports to protect certain classes of people from discriminatory employers or landlords. That’s what is seen. What is not immediately seen is how property owners and others suffer when such laws are used to modify the speech or behavior of the public at large.
This is why public policy must be considered not just in terms of the immediate expected result, but also the likely unintended consequences that will arise due to our own limited wisdom. This can be very difficult when applying this test to issues that are highly emotionally charged.
Understanding how anti-discrimination legislation results in a net loss of freedom for all requires that we set aside our emotional and ideological blinders. It also requires recognizing how political opportunists, bureaucrats, and busybodies have sought to gain power over us by splitting us into squabbling factions.
Over time, we’ve allowed ourselves to become artificially divided into a growing list of victim groups, each of which are afforded certain legal advantages. The political perks range from preferential treatment in the workplace to the use of state powers to punish and silence detractors.
This has led to the widespread practice of identity politics where extra legal protections are based upon the group to which we belong. What starts as prohibitions of bias against women, minorities, gays, or the disabled, is expanded to include the elderly, the religious, those with body piercings, et cetera.
Lawmakers will often try to justify these divisions by creating as many new classifications as possible. The resulting proliferation of protected groups distorts the foundational principle of a free society requiring that the law protect all equally.
When state power prevents us from peacefully speaking or behaving in ways that some groups find unacceptable, some groups invariably become more “equal” than others.
The danger here is that no actual harm has to have taken place for the force of government to come into play. Hurt feelings and disappointments are not the same thing as being assaulted or defrauded. A person who is denied housing or employment by a property owner or an employer has not suffered an injury that requires the state’s intervention.
The law does not exist to impose acceptable attitudes on us. It is there to protect our lives, liberty, and property from actions causing actual harm.
An objective standard is needed. Blogger Eric Peters said:
This is why the line in the sand must be drawn at harm caused – or not. If not, no crime (or offense) has been committed and the person has a right to be left unmolested, unthreatened by “the law.”
If you accept the principle that a person can be restrained/punished for any reason other than his having caused tangible harm to a person or their property, you have de facto approved of limitless restraint/punishment.
This means that property owners or employers should be free to contract with whomever they choose and on whatever basis they choose — including the right of exclusion. No one is forcing the potential tenant to rent from a particular landlord, nor is the potential employee being strong-armed to work for a specific employer.
The agreement to rent or to contract for work should be voluntary and agreeable to both parties. If, for any reason, one party does not agree, they are free to peaceably go their separate ways. Bringing the coercive power of the state into the situation to force someone to rent to or hire another person against his or her wishes is simply thuggish.
Those who may be tempted to equate opposition to anti-discrimination laws with a desire to return to Jim Crow are missing the point. Jim Crow laws also denied freedom of association. They too were mandatory and not voluntary.
We do not have a sacred, enforceable right to the property of others — even if they discriminate differently than we do.
If we perceive that there is a wrong to be righted, let us lead by example in how we treat others.
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Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk 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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