As reported in the Des Moines Register, a jury recently found the State of Iowa guilty of illegal discrimination against a transgender man. He had not been allowed to use the men’s bathroom or locker room, and he had been denied health insurance coverage for gender re-assignment surgery. (See link below to Register article.)
It is morally correct and good public policy that our government not discriminate against a people based on their gender identity. But refusal by government or private employers to cover gender reassignment surgery under their health insurance plans should not be considered wrongful discrimination, unless the plans cover other types of cosmetic procedures for people who feel similar dysphoria. People may feel 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 health insurance plans should be required to cover procedures to make people feel better about their appearance. We have already seen that requiring health insurance plans to cover almost everything makes the premiums unaffordable for many people. 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.
The Des Moines Register reported today (7/24/2014) that, “An Iowa newspaper editor fired after publishing his views on homosexuals is claiming he was the victim of religious discrimination by his former employer.” He has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Editors of newspapers should not be protected by laws against discrimination in employment based on religious belief. Newspapers are privately owned businesses that typically express the opinions of their owners. They benefit our society by their independent advocacy regarding public policy. They should not be forced by government to employ editors who hold beliefs contrary to their own – especially political or public policy beliefs. Owners of newspapers should be free to fire editors at will, unless they have entered into an employment contract to the contrary. For government to force a newspaper to continue to employ an editor is wrong and is bad public policy.
Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2014/07/23/newspaper-editor-fired-gaystapo/13047733/
The U.S. has made many great advances in the fight against racism since the “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years ago. One area where we have failed miserably is the drug wars. Blacks have been arrested, convicted and incarcerated for non-violent drug related offenses in numbers way out of proportion to their drug use when compared to whites. To add insult to injury, once a person has been convicted of a drug offense, they are prohibited by law from getting certain federal benefits including military and other federal employment, federally subsidized student loans and grants, food stamps, federal housing assistance and more. Finally, and even more devastating, most employers legally discriminate against anyone who has had a drug conviction. So, the negative impact on blacks’ ability to get work is again way out of proportion when compared to whites who use drugs. There is no way that the immoral drug wars would have been allowed to continue this long if the tables had been turned and whites were treated so unfairly. If you think that you are not racist, then you must support ending the drug wars – unless, of course, you want to wreck the lives of many many more white people by treating them the same as black people.
In a free society, individuals should be allowed to voluntarily choose who they wish to associate with, or not associate with. In an employment relationship, both the employer and employee should be free to terminate the employment relationship with or without notice, and for any reason or no reason – unless they contractually agree to something else.
In the recent case of the dentist who fired his dental assistant, the Iowa Supreme Court was correct in its decision to not penalize the dentist. The dental practice was the private property of the dentist. There was no employment contract between the parties, so the employment relationship could properly be terminated by either party.
People who disagree with what the dentist did are free to peacefully protest against the dentist, and they can try to peacefully organize a boycott of his practice. Remaining employees of the dentist are free to quit or to organize a peaceful strike against him if they wish. But, no one should be able to use force, even a majority through government, to dictate the terms of the employment relationship or penalize either party for terminating the relationship.
If a government had been the employer, it would have been a completely different situation. Governments are created by all of the people to serve all of the people. Government employers should only be allowed to discriminate based on factors related to job requirements and job performance. But peaceful people acting voluntarily should be left alone by government to decide for themselves whether or not to enter into any relationships with one another and to set the terms of those relationships.
The owners of Chick-fil-a have spoken out against gay marriage, and have financially supported groups that are against gay marriage. Many supporters of “traditional marriage” have shown their support for Chick-fil-a by patronizing their stores. Many who oppose discrimination against gay marriage have boycotted and protested against Chick-fil-a.
All of these peaceful and private actions are morally acceptable and should be politically acceptable. What we don’t want is for government to get involved. Privately owned businesses, even though they open their doors to the public, do not give away their private property rights or speech rights. People should be free to speak on both sides of the issue. Rallys, protests, and boycotts by groups for or against gay marriage rights should be allowed without interference by government.
Our laws should not discriminate against people who are peaceful and honest. The force of government should not used to require owners of privately owned businesses to provide products or services that are against their moral philosophy. In the case of Chick-fil-a, they should be able to employ or say, or do whatever they want as long as they don’t use any force or fraud against others and don’t infringe on the same rights of others.