The Supreme Court of the U.S. recently heard arguments in a case that weighs anti-discrimination rights against religious rights. The specific question is: Should a Christian web designer who is morally opposed to gay marriage be forced to design a website that celebrates the marriage of a gay couple? Colorado law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation by any business that offers its products or services to the public. The web designer argues that she is not discriminating against the couple, she is discriminating against the website content being proposed.
Even though I am an atheist and support equal rights for all, I look at this as a case where the web designer is in the minority and the gay couple has the vast majority on their side. I would guess that 90+% of web designers would be very willing and able to design the website for the gay couple. Additionally, this is not about purchasing a standard product or service – like renting a room, buying something off of a shelf at a store, hiring a taxi, or buying food in a restaurant. It is asking a person to use their creative talent to create something that promotes an act that they are morally opposed to.
If we force relatively small minorities of people to act in opposition to their sincerely held religious beliefs, especially when the person who feels discriminated against has many completely voluntary, peaceful alternatives, then we will be putting ourselves in an unnecessary situation where the minority will feel aggrieved and will fight without end. In a pluralistic society, which is what we have in the U.S. we should look first to find voluntary, peaceful solutions to our differences. The force of government should be used only as a last resort when no other reasonable alternatives exist – which is not the case here.
The United States of America is a pluralistic, heterogeneous country. Liberals, conservatives, libertarians. Muslims, Christians, atheists. Asians, Blacks, Latinos, Whites. And on and on. It seems that we are getting more tribal – my tribe is good and other tribes are bad. Many media outlets reinforce the idea that those who disagree with us are evil and have bad intentions. We are righteous and our intentions are honorable. We want to save our Country and our opponents want to destroy it. There doesn’t appear to be a path to peace and agreement about how to go forward.
Every group seems to go to our government to lobby for laws and regulations that support their position and/or outlaw contrary positions. Very few seem to care about fundamental, first principles. They just want their side to win. It would be nice if we could agree on fundamental principles and then go forward with laws and regulations that are consistent with those principles.
Living in a free country doesn’t just mean that others should tolerate the things you do that they don’t like. If you truly believe in individual liberty and want to support diversity, equity, and inclusion, then you need to tolerate people who do things you don’t like.
I agree with William Cotton’s essay in The Des Moines Register that we must make changes to eliminate systemic racism. (See link below to his essay in the Register.) Here are two specific actions we should take: 1. Eliminate stops by police of vehicles with equipment violations such as broken lights. If appropriate, tickets can be issued by mail against the owner of the vehicle based on videos or photos. This will help eliminate pre-textual stops. 2. Repeal or stop enforcement of laws against the possession of marijuana. It has been clearly established that marijuana possession laws are enforced unequally between black and white people. We have made great progress over time in reducing government-supported racism in our country, but we must continue to eliminate it everywhere we find it.
The Iowa Legislature made the correct decision when they passed the bill that prohibited Medicaid from covering gender transition surgery. One the one hand, it is morally correct and good public policy that our government not discriminate against a people based on their gender identity. On the other hand, that does not mean Medicaid or any other insurance should be required by law to cover gender transition surgery. Proponents of requiring such coverage say that it is medically necessary because of the mental distress that gender dysphoria may cause. But, cosmetic surgery of any type has not been required to be covered just because a person feels bad about the way they look physically.
I’m sure some people feel great mental distress over their teeth being crooked, or their nose being too big, or many other aspects of their body, but that does not mean Medicaid (taxpayers) or other health insurance plans should be required to cover procedures to make people feel better about their appearance. Requiring health insurance plans to cover almost everything makes the makes the cost unaffordable to almost everyone. There is nothing inherently wrong with expecting people to pay their own way for cosmetic procedures.
According to an article in the Des Moines Register, The American Association of University Women (AAUW) issued their annual report on the “pay gap” between women and men. According to the report, women in Iowa earn about $10,000 less per year than men. This article, and the related report, are excellent examples of misuse of meaningless statistics. (See link below.) Comparing the median pay for all women with the median pay for all men tells us nothing about whether or not sex discrimination is taking place. A valid analysis would compare the pay of women and men who do the same work for the same employer. The report by the AAUW did not do that.
This report tells us more about the bias of the AAUW than it does about bias in the workplace. As you reported, Kim Churches, chief executive officer of AAUW, said, “It’s unacceptable. There is no gender differentiation when it comes to quality, skills, and talent. It’s time to close this gap and give every woman in Iowa and across the country the salaries they deserve.” She advocated for more regulation.
Based on the facts given in the article, and assuming that women and men can and do perform equally, then it is fair to presume that the AAUW would agree that if any woman wants to earn the same pay as a man, then they should go for the same jobs that men go for. When the relevant qualifications, working conditions, and job duties are accounted for, the difference in pay between women and men reduces dramatically. The pay gap has been reducing for years. Our current laws are working. We don’t need to add more regulations.
The Des Moines Register recently published a nice essay by a gay couple who got married in Iowa without any discrimination issues to deal with. (See link to Register essay below.) It is fair and reasonable for government to prohibit discrimination against gay couples and others in the selling of standard goods and services that are offered to the public, like most products retail stores, rooms at hotels and motels, and meals at restaurants. But when the product or services needs to be customized or personalized by the seller, then discrimination by the seller should be allowed, and the buyer should not be able to enlist the force of government to require the seller to provide the product or service. So, for example, cake bakers should required to sell what is what is on their shelves and available for sale without discrimination, but they should not be required to create custom cakes against their will. At the same time buyers are free to choose other sellers and to organize peaceful protests and boycotts against such discriminating sellers. This way, everyone’s liberty is preserved, and no force needs to be used, by government or anyone else.
As readers of this blog may know, I am and atheist libertarian and support gay marriage.
A transgendered person should be eligible to serve in the military, just like just like every other man or women, and just like every other gay or straight person. If they are qualified to do the job, then government should not discriminate against them based on their transgendered status. That does not mean the military or taxpayers should foot the bill for sex change operations. Just as being transgendered is not a disease, surgery to to change a person’s sex is not a medical necessity. Transgendered folks will can be completely healthy without a sex change operation. So, sex change operations should be considered elective, and not be required to be covered by any insurance plan, including that of the military.
I was glad to read that the Boy Scouts are expanding their good work to include transgender boys. (See Des Moines Register link below.) Private club-type of organizations, like the Boy Scouts, do have and should have the right to decide who may or who may not be members. The fundamental and peaceful right to Freedom of Association should be respected by law. Any group of people should be able to voluntarily form a club or other organization. whether boy or girl, Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, etc. I’m sure this was a difficult decision for some in the organization. Many people simply do not know how to react to people who are transgendered. Everything I’ve known about the Boy Scouts leads me to believe that it is an honorable organization that teaches both practical skills and good moral values and behaviors to boys. This was the right thing for them to do.
As The Des Moines Register reported on 10/13/2016, “Black Iowans are seven times more likely to be arrested for drug possession than white Iowans…” (See link below.) Drug possession. A crime without a victim. Arrests that create a criminal record that seriously negatively affects a person’s ability to get a job.
Even if blacks do possess illegal drugs at a rate seven times more than whites, which I very much doubt, treating possession of any drug as a crime is clearly unfair, if not racist. Why don’t people get arrested for “possession” if they are caught with a six pack of beer? Why aren’t people be arrested and charged with “intent to deliver” if they are caught with more than a case of beer? Why aren’t people charged with a more serious crime if they are caught with high alcohol content distilled spirits, which are surely more dangerous?
We need to end the immoral and impractical drug wars. The correct and reasonable thing to do is to legalize and regulate the manufacture, sale and use of all drugs, just like alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs. Just like with alcohol, fair regulations would include protecting our children, and prohibiting driving vehicles while intoxicated. In any case, we need to end prohibition.
Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2016/10/12/iowa-ranks-2nd-worst-racial-disparities-drug-arrests/91958452/
It is a proper role of government to regulate activities on public property. But, it is unfair that West Des Moines has banned both smoking and vaping in their public parks. There may be no safe level of second hand smoke or nicotine vaper, but there is also no safe level of car exhaust, or camp fire or barbecue grill fumes, but we don’t ban them. Life is not risk free. And really, isn’t it pretty easy for anyone who happens to be down wind from a smoker or vaper to avoid the situation by simply moving a little bit? Smokers and vapers pay taxes that fund public parks just like everyone else. This is simply a case of an intolerant majority oppressing an out-of-favor minority. I hope that other municipalities will not follow suit. p.s. – I don’t smoke or vape.