Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Don't Give *Them* "Special Rights"
There are people in our society who have made a certain "lifestyle choice", and are now demanding that we give them special rights because of their choice. (You know who I am talking about.) I think the conduct of some of these people, and their demands for those "special rights" merits some scrutiny.
If you listen carefully to the media today, you will hear the claim that discrimination and even violence against these people is widespread. They are often depicted as victims of hate crimes or unfair hiring and firing practices - even before any scrutiny has been applied to determine why they might have been victimized. These people and their advocacy groups use these incidents to portray themselves as victims. They demand state support for their lifestyle choices and practices, and demand anti-discrimination laws to protect their lifestyle choices.
It goes without saying that these people have, as their ultimate goal, public acceptance of their lifestyle. One method of achieving this goal is to give their lifestyle choice protection through nondiscrimination legislation, granting them the same civil rights status enjoyed by women, African Americans and the disabled.
A Cause For Concern
To some, protecting these people from discrimination may not sound like such a bad idea. Neither does protecting them from violent crimes. But we must be careful not to miss the real purpose of these efforts by their activists, to portray themselves as victims. Granting them special rights sends a strong message to society. It says that people who make this lifestyle choice deserve the same legal status and protection as someone who is born black or female or handicapped. This amounts to a pretense that their lifestyle is not a choice but a predetermined characteristic. By talking the focus off of their choices and behavior and making themselves victims, these people engender more support for their lifestyle. For this reason alone, it is vitally important that the citizens of this nation understand the danger of granting them special rights.
Over the years, a great deal of legislation has been introduced and reintroduced at both the federal and state levels that purport to be about protecting these people from employment discrimination and the violence of hate crimes, while their underlying goal is to keep this lifestyle choice on the list of protected classes, like race and gender. They have been remarkably successful in obtaining the introduction of legislation which favors their lifestyle choice in the context of employment, housing and public accommodation, and even to advance their lifestyle choices within public school settings. They also want legal protections for their choice of relationship, and even legislative endorsement of their preferred manner of sexual relations.
Special protection for these people could also mean problems for landlords. Under the laws they demand, landlords could be sued for refusing to rent to these people, particularly if the landlord was aware of their lifestyle choice. Furthermore, landowners who rent apartments, sometimes even in their own homes, would be told they must rent to individuals who may be committing offensive acts on their property.
A Civil Rights or Moral Issue
The argument that the granting of protected status for these people is a civil rights issue has been used often in this debate. It is a comparison that has angered some in the African-American community. “Skin color is a benign, non-behavioral characteristic,” General Colin Powell wrote. In contrast, while this lifestyle choice might be described as "perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics", comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument.
The U.S. Supreme Court has laid down three requirements for a group to receive protected status - a shared immutable characteristic, economic deprivation, and a history of political powerlessness. A close look at each of these characteristics reveals that this lifestyle choice does not meet the requirements.
Making a lifestyle choice is not the same as being black or being a woman. These are characteristics that can be seen and are not based on behavior.
“The Supreme Court has declared that immutable characteristics are like the shape of the eyes, skin and hair," says Reverend Louis P. Sheldon, president of the Traditional Values Coalition. A similar definition is provided in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There is nothing immutable about this lifestyle choice. It is a behavior-driven characteristic and to align it with minority status is absolutely erroneous. Behavior is not included in the definition.
Is it even fair to compare the history of the black Civil Rights Movement with this demand for special rights? People in this class often earn more per capita than the average American, woman or black. When you look at the conditions for blacks and other minorities, you must ask yourself:
"where is the discrimination?" These people have tremendous income, enormous economic and buying power, and a lot of discretionary income.
Does the special rights movement have a history of being politically powerless? If you look at the history of the movement from the earliest days of this nation, this movement has been anything but powerless. This is a group that has wielded an enormous amount of power from the
very beginning, with tremendous influence on state legislatures. Their participation in politics, and their open advocacy of expansive special rights for their lifestyle choice, is accepted without controversy. The major political parties cater to them to try to secure their votes and favors, and have even been known to promise special rights legislation at the national level.
It is obvious that this group does not have a history of political powerlessness.
The Real Issue
Civil rights laws were enacted to offset discrimination against blacks, but these people can claim no victim status as an oppressed, poor minority. They are trying to hijack a movement for their own advantage.
It is clear that these people as a group do not meet the requirements of a protected class. The real issue, of course, is one of choice, not civil rights. A lifestyle choice is a behavior. More importantly, it is a behavior that encompasses a very distinct lifestyle in which specific conduct and actions play a major role. Granting them protection creates both a threat to free speech and a danger to children.
Freedom of Expression
One of the questions that granting these people special rights or protected status raises is, how much of an impact will it have on the freedom of expression? While proponents claim that it will not affect free speech at all, a closer look clearly demonstrates that this is simply not the case. If special rights legislation were passed, a supervisor with different beliefs would be unable to express those beliefs in the workplace. Business owners who reject this lifestyle choice might be faced with difficult choices over whom they hire and whom they fire.
Employment legislation isn’t the only threat to free speech. Hate crimes legislation could also impact the freedom to express deeply held beliefs. Robert Knight of the Family Research Council testified in May before a Senate committee that the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999 actually "creates thought crime" because the violent acts are already against the law. Furthermore, some in the media and in the government have begun to interpret public opposition to the normalization of this lifestyle choice as "hate". Special rights advocates have characterized even mild formulations of opposing views as an expression of hatred or as a proximate cause of violence.
Some of these special rights advocates even object to advertisements meant to invite or encourage these people to make different lifestyle choices. Supposedly, these types of messages - undiluted messages of love - instigate prejudice against their lifestyle choices, or lead to crimes of violence against them.
A Threat to Children
Special rights legislation also has the potential of impacting the most vulnerable in our society. This becomes more of a concern in the area of employment. Under the laws these special rights advocates have long demanded, public school systems would not be allowed to hire or fire teachers, principles and guidance counselors on the basis of their lifestyle choice. They are also very vocal in trying to get school libraries to include literature which advances their lifestyle choice, while working to censor anything they believe casts any doubt or negative light on that choice. They won't hesitate to sue a school that won't treat their on-campus activities as if they were any other student organization - as if they were a chess club. They have even been successful in having textbooks changed to reflect their agenda, overriding other people's notions of science and morality for those consistent with their lifestyle choice.
The educational system isn’t the only institution where special rights legislation is threatening children. Even voluntary clubs or youth organizations are feeling the pressure. These people would not hesitate to sue an organization like the Boy Scouts if they were terminated as scout leaders because of their lifestyle choice. This is the type of organization that special rights legislation has an impact on, and this is exactly the kind of organization that special rights advocates want most to infiltrate. How better to shape the future than to mold the minds of the youth?
Worse, these people have a long history of trying to indoctrinate children, and to convince them to share their lifestyle choice. There are documented cases in which special rights advocates, aware that a child's parents reject their lifestyle choice, have nonetheless tried to convert the child to their lifestyle - in some cases through threats.
There is obviously more to special rights legislation than the activists would like us to believe. The push to have their lifestyle choice added to the list of specially protected classes has been a stated part of their agenda for hundreds of years. And with good reason. It is much easier for special rights activists to gain support for antidiscrimination laws than it is for them to gain support for more blatant legislation such as redefining marriage according to their preferred definition.
It must be remembered that this legislation is not really about protecting these people in the workplace or from violent crimes. These people are already protected in these areas just like everyone else. Special rights legislation is simply another, more subtle attempt by special rights groups to legitimize their lifestyle. Making their lifestyle choice a protected class does more than just grant these people "special rights" status. It also poses a serious threat to the free speech rights of millions of Americans who disagree with that choice or find it distasteful - even offensive.
This is the world these special rights advocates want: One in which business men and women who hold other values and beliefs are unable to express those beliefs in the workplace. One in which public school administrators are forced to hire teachers and guidance counselors without consideration of their lifestyle choice. One in which private organizations like the Boy Scouts are expected to make lifestyle choice irrelevant in the selection of scout leaders, and subject to litigation if they refuse. Most importantly, one in which parents will have to watch in silence as their children are placed at the feet of those who push the special rights agenda.
The goal of the special rights movement is to receive social acceptance of their lifestyle. Once a group defined by lifestyle choice receives special rights status, they are one step closer to that goal.
But Who Are These People?
At some point, I may have lost track.... but I don't think I was writing about homosexuals.
[This document is based on "Special Rights For Homosexuals", by the North Carolina Family Policy Council.]