Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Why I Support Utah House Bills 89 and 318

Currently it is legal in Utah to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I personally think it's a choice rather than an orientation, but I don't support discrimination against it either way. To respect someone's sexual orientation or gender identity does not encourage or condone public displays of homosexuality any more than it encourages public displays of heterosexuality. For this reason I support the healthy changes that are included in Utah House Bill 89.

Currently, as well, cohabiting couples are legally prohibited in Utah from adopting a child, regardless of any other circumstances. I think that the courts should be able to consider those other circumstances. Cohabiting couples, regardless of sexual orientation, are not necessarily unfit to be adoptive parents. Measures are already in place to ensure that any unfit adult will not be considered as fit to adopt a child. For this reason, I also support the improvements to Utah State law that are a part of Utah House Bill 318.

House Bill 89 - ANTIDISCRIMINATION ACT AMENDMENTS

When it comes to discrimination in Utah workplaces and other public places, current law includes the following categories as "protected" against discrimination (HB 89 would substitute the word "covered" for the term "protected"):
(a) race;
(b) color;
(c) sex;
(d) retaliation;
(e) pregnancy, childbirth, or pregnancy-related conditions;
(f) age;
(g) religion;
(h) national origin; [or]
(i) disability[.];
To this list, HB 89 would add sexual orientation and gender identity. As I try to imagine myself in the shoes of someone whose sexuality is oriented--or whose gender is identified--differently

They are people, too, who cannot hurt anyone by what they believe or feel.

than I think it should be, I can understand why that orientation or identification should be covered against discrimination. Because they are people, too, who cannot hurt anyone by what they believe or feel.

Just because they are covered, though, the law does not give them the right to flaunt their sexuality in public, any more than it gives a heterosexual individual the right to flaunt his or hers. It does not give such persons any preference at all--in fact the law would also be modified by HB 89 to make that very clear. It simply puts them on the same footing as other individuals. I think this is only fair. As the bill says:
556 (d) (i) This chapter may not be interpreted to require...
575 (e) An employer, employment agency, labor organization, vocational school, joint
576 labor-management committee, or apprenticeship program subject to this chapter [to]:
577 (i) adopt or implement a system under which a specific number or percentage of
578 persons are employed or selected to participate in a program on the basis of sexual orientation
579 or gender identity; or
580 (ii) give a preference to an individual on the basis of sexual orientation or gender
581 identity.
If I disagree with your politics, it shouldn't be a disqualification from me hiring you for employment.
Why then should an opinion regarding sexual orientation or gender identity be a disqualification? People can disagree on a whole host of things and still like each other.

HB 318 - UTAH ADOPTION AMENDMENTS

My reservations about HB 318--or any potential legislation that might be like it--were these.
  • The implication that all homosexual adults would by the legislation be considered fit parents.
  • That the institution of marriage would be denigrated by this change in the law.
And then I read the bill. And I changed my mind. Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck, the sponsor of the bill, has done a marvelous job in the bill of balancing and recognizing the various interests that lead to a healthy society.

First of all, no attempt is made in the legislation to denigrate marriage between a man and a woman. In fact, existing language in the law is actually strengthened in that regard. Instead of alternate relationships being denigrated, legal marriage is affirmed as generally that "which is in a child's best interest".
100 (3) (a) The Legislature specifically finds that it is [not] in a child's best interest to be
101 adopted by a person or persons who are [cohabiting in a relationship that is not a legally valid
102 and binding marriage under the laws of this state] legally married.
Secondly, several methods are already in place to ensure that the child's best interests continue to be considered during adoption proceedings. All of that verbiage

I can think of quite a few situations that would be far more detrimental to the interests of the child.

is kept in place (see below), but is modified slightly to include non-traditional families only when such would be in the child's best interest.
70 the division or child-placing agency shall place the child with a man and a woman who are
71 married to each other, unless:
72 (a) there are no qualified married couples who:
73 (i) have applied to adopt a child;
74 (ii) are willing to adopt the child; and
75 (iii) are an appropriate placement for the child;
76 (b) the child is placed with a relative of the child;
78 relationship with the child;
79 (d) the child is placed with a person who:
80 (i) is selected by a parent or former parent of the child, if the parent or former parent
81 consented to the adoption of the child; and
82 (ii) the parent or former parent described in Subsection [(4)] (3)(d)(i):
83 (A) knew the person with whom the child is placed before the parent consented to the
84 adoption; or
85 (B) became aware of the person with whom the child is placed through a source other
86 than the division or the child-placing agency that assists with the adoption of the child; or
87 (e) it is in the best interests of the child to place the child [with a single person] in
88 another placement.
Is it conceivable that a child's best interest would be to continue to live with a cohabiting adult couple? In many situations, no, but in some cases yes. How about if that cohabiting couple is a homosexual couple? Again, in many situations, no, but in some cases yes.

I can think of quite a few situations that would be far more detrimental to the interests of the child.
. . .

Some people worry about what might happen after the proverbial camel gets his nose under the tent. In politics and society, we can't worry about that (usually such worries are unfounded anyway). We should, rather, consider what is, in each instance, fair and just. House Bills 89 and 318 help to foster that fairness and justice for all Utahns.




10 comments:

  1. Frank

    I am ready to proclaim you an honorary Democrat! You are very thoughtful and open minded. You are gaining a lot of friends on our side of the aisle.

    The Republican Party needs more people like you, John McCain, Steve Mascaro, and Sheryl Allen. Let's work together.

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  2. Thanks. In the future, if I decide whether to run for legislature, be it as a Democrat or as a Republican, I hope we can still be friends. ;-)

    I'm afraid, however, that some of my Republican friends might think I've lost my marbles because I've seen the other side's point of view on this issue.

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  3. Frank,

    Not sure I fully agree on the issues presented here. Allow me to voice my concerns:

    I don't think government should have any role in forced associations. When the government mandates that a person may not be disqualified for employment based on certain qualifications, it is overriding the right to free association that is a fundamental aspect of liberty.

    Free association means that I should be able to affiliate with whomever I choose. If I'd rather not employ people shorter than 6', does the government have any authority to force me to do so? Remember that the government only (legally and morally) can wield the power that we the people inherently possess. So, since you cannot force me to hire somebody shorter than 6', the government cannot assume this role.

    Now, Democrats and others might throw up their fist and say that were this policy enacted, rich white men would get all the jobs, a notable caste would develop, and social lines would firm up and leave women, blacks, gays, and ___ (fill in your minority label here) in the dust. While there is historical evidence showing the disregard for such persons, I don't think that would be the case today. Take, for example, Hooters. Do you think they should be forced to hire men to be the waiters? Isn't part of their niche dependent upon the fact that they use women? :)

    Here's a quote I agree with from H. Verlan Andersen:

    Anti-discrimination laws do not prevent discrimination, they compel discrimination. They do not protect the rights of either the employer or the employee but on the other hand destroy the rights of both by transferring control over jobs to government. There is no such thing as group justice. There is only individual justice. Rights and duties, punishments and rewards can be dispensed only according to individual merit and not at all according to membership or non-membership in any particular group. The idea of group justice is a mirage or an illusion because justice cannot be administered to groups. It is nothing but a clumsy fraud designed to increase the power of government at the expense of human rights. (via Quoty)

    I'm less concerned about the second issue with adoption. I do firmly believe that the best environment for a home is one where a father and mother both reside and care for the family. Short of that ideal, I don't think that single mothers/fathers should be disqualified for adoption, should they be able to prove that they can meet the necessary qualifications in demonstrating that they'll be able to provide for the child's needs.

    So, to summarize... I agree with most everything you blog about, but on this discrimination issue, we don't see eye to eye.

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  4. A very thoughtful post, Frank.

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  5. Frank,
    Have to disagree with you on this one. Individual rights exceed the rights of government, because the rights of government (in the USA) are only delegated rights from the citizens. the citizens retain control of all other individual rights.
    Laws against discrimination discriminate against those who have opposing viewpoints, thereby eliminating their individual rights. Those laws seek to protect those who might otherwise rightfully be castigated by society at large or individually for actions that are harmful to society, itself. It is self-destructive for a society to accept as rightful segments of society those whose desire is the destruction of that society. That's the 'democratic' way, but its not the correct way to assure survival of the species.
    Further, government has no right to legislate the thoughts of men, only overt actions that harm others in their their rightful activities. I submit that homosexuality, adultery, promiscuity, and other lifestyles have not been acceptable practices in most societies on earth these many thousand years, and yet suddenly we should accept that they are "all right"? NO!
    Love the sinner, yes, but HATE the sin, and work to eliminate the sin from the life of the sinner. If there are no consequences for sinful action, then society has no positive role, and government creates anarchy.
    What is the proper role of government, Frank?

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  6. Connor and Leonidas,

    Thank you for your thoughtful replies. You raise some good issues. I still stick to my guns. Here's where I'm coming from, although it may seem to some a flip-flop or naiveté.

    Although a workplace should not, in my opinion, be able to discriminate based on sexual orientation (preference) or gender identity, the workplace should be (and I think under the change in law will be) able to enforce a code of conduct, to include prohibition of workplace lewdness or other sexual conduct. I am an employee at BYU, and I think this differentiation is what BYU functions under. The LDS church policy, I think, has the same focus. A person's orientation, preference, or identity is his or her personal belief, but to remain a part of the organization, he or she must abide by the code of conduct, which states that the individual may not act on the inclinations of the orientation, preference, or identity.

    Failure to live by the code of conduct is determined only by what is admitted to by the person or what occurs in public.

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  7. Frank,

    Either I'm misunderstanding you, or you're supporting my point.

    A private entity (company, university, etc.) should be able to enforce a code of conduct it supports, just as BYU does. Pursuant to this code, they should be able to discriminate who they employ. A private organization should retain the right to allow into its membership whomever it desires. One is not inherently entitled to membership in whatever company or organization they choose.

    It's the same w/ LDS temples. Do we want the government saying that religions shouldn't discriminate, and thus anybody should be allowed into the temple? Should the government mandate that women may have the priesthood?

    So I'm a bit confused, because it sounds like you're arguing my point. BYU, as an example, discriminates to a certain degree. Is this bad? Should the government manage this discrimination and weigh in on how and when and why?

    Perhaps you could clarify a bit more how you reconcile a company's right to hire who it wants with this new (and existing) anti-discriminatory legislation?

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  8. BYU does not, I think, discriminate when it is aware that someone feels sexually oriented in a homosexual way. It only discriminates when someone is known to act on those feelings.

    The reason I support the change in the law is because certain businesses currently think it would be okay to discriminate simply because of innuendo.

    I think BYU already follows what the new law would require.

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  9. To My Friends of Faith,

    Recently a friend at our church brought this "film" to my attention.
    Her son apparently was sent this web link from someone.

    It's a movie clip (that has been recently released, or is about to,,, I'm not sure),,
    anyway, it depicts Mormons as flesh eating ghouls, and it is just awful. www.thebookofzombie.com


    On behalf of myself and my husband, and our Mormon friends,
    I would like to make sure that young people are NOT subjected to this terrible conception of our faith.


    please let me know if you are able to help.


    regards, Betty Toms

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  10. Frank, I'm wondering if I had not discovered your blog by the time you first posted this almost two years ago - otherwise I think I would have commented because I had stated a position similar to yours regarding adoption in September of 2007.

    I find it funny that people think the LDS church is new to the position of support they expressed (again) last night for non-discrimination. They have been absolutely consistent in seeking to treat people with respect while holding the line on the importance of traditional marriage in society.

    ReplyDelete

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