OPINION – The test of how well we actually understand personal liberty, natural rights, and the legitimate role of government is currently underway at many levels.
A highly visible example took place recently when St. George City Council members were asked to consider adopting an ordinance to prohibit discrimination against homosexuals in housing and employment. We’ll see this test continued after the first of the year when state Sen. Steve Urquhart brings his latest statewide anti-discrimination bill to the state legislature for another try at passage.
What many citizens don’t yet seem to understand is that we are being asked to choose between freedom and equality.
The proponents of anti-discrimination laws and ordinances say that they are simply seeking equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community by making legally enforceable prohibitions against perceived discrimination. In seeking equality by edict, they are asking that our laws place the natural rights of property or business owners below an individual’s right to be validated for his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
This is done by making discrimination a legally punishable offense.
While most of us naturally aspire to be free, we’ve somehow allowed ourselves to become convinced that equality takes precedent over freedom. In a contest between freedom and equality, freedom seems destined to lose.
We have collectively forgotten how a free society operates because it’s been a long time since any of us has lived in anything resembling a free society.
In free societies, there is no enforceable right to service. Business owners and property owners have the absolute right to refuse service, employment or housing to anyone for any reason whatsoever. For a society to enjoy inviolable property rights, freedom of association, freedom of contract, freedom of assembly, free enterprise, or a free market, we must be free to discriminate.
Of course, the beauty of the free market is that a person is free to not discriminate as well. Civility doesn’t require coercion.
The fact that most employers, business owners, and landlords manage to fill positions, do productive business, and keep their rental properties occupied means that they’re capable of wisely using their own judgement.
Those who push the limits of what their employees, customers, or tenants are willing to bear will eventually reach a point where no one chooses to do business with them. That is a far better approach to shaping attitudes than embracing a mind-reading, self-righteous crusade to punish those who refuse to embrace the latest morally imperative fad.
Each of us has experienced discrimination at some point in our lives. Just so we’re clear, I’m not referring to violent criminal acts that objectively harmed our person or our property. I’m talking about someone else exercising their freedom of choice to reject us.
Whether it was rooted in our race, gender, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, height, weight, disability, familial status, marital status, financial status, political preference, odor, or appearance, it did not give us legal or moral authority over our discriminators.
How do most of us handle such situations? Like adults, we shrug it off and instead gravitate towards those with whom we find common ground and acceptance.
Too often, however, we encounter individuals or groups who seek to categorize simple disapproval as discrimination that justifies legal intervention by government.
For instance, what began as a small ripple of isolated incidents over same-sex marriage is beginning to build into a wave of punitive LGBT activism more interested in enforcing new taboos than it is in equal treatment.
Discrimination charges have been brought against a wedding photographer in New Mexico and a cake maker in Colorado. More recent legal actions have spread to include pastors in Idaho and the owners of a farm in Upstate New York. In each of these cases, those accused of discrimination simply declined to participate in same-sex weddings.
They did not harass or measurably harm another person or his or her property. They did not engage in fraud. They simply refused to use their businesses and their personal property to participate in things they did not wish to be a part of.
But under the various state anti-discrimination laws, they were fined thousands of dollars, required to take sensitivity training, and forced to do business with their antagonists. Is this what we wish to force upon Utah employers and property owners?
Why should their freedom of association and the right to peaceably use their own property as they see fit take a backseat to another person’s desire for validation? Why should they be forced to accommodate these potential clients when other businesses are perfectly willing to do so?
The answer should be obvious. It’s not about equality. It’s about obtaining the power to dictate the beliefs and values of others.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
- On the EDge: Time for St. George City Council to stand up for everybody’s rights
- City hears request for possible nondiscrimination ordinance
- Letter to the Editor: ‘First Freedom’ an answer to my prayers; texting, nondiscrimination, RAP tax
- Sen. Urquhart plans to reintroduce nondiscrimination bill – October 2014
- Urquhart’s anti-discrimination bill tabled for another year – February 2014
- Perspectives: Anti-discrimination laws, do unto others or else
- Urquhart to reintroduce LGBT antidiscrimination bill – November 2013
- Constitutional carry bill passes as anti-discrimination bill dies – March 2013
- Perspectives: Discrimination shouldn’t be a criminal act
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