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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Is Discrimination Ever Justified?

The Associated Press recently reported the following:

(AP) - A Virginia House of Delegates committee on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment making it clear that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

The measure prohibiting gay marriage will be on the November ballot if it is approved by the full General Assembly. State law already bans gay marriage, but proponents of the constitutional amendment say it is needed to make clear that Virginia does not have to recognize such marriages or civil unions performed in other states.

Several gay rights activists spoke against the proposal. Dyana Mason, executive director of the Equality Virginia, said the measure would "write discrimination into the Virginia constitution."

Opponents also said the amendment could have broad, unintended consequences for all unmarried couples in the areas of advanced medical directives, property ownership and domestic violence protective orders.

"This is going to change the way gay people are treated for the rest of my lifetime," Richmond auto dealer Mac Pence said.

The proposal passed overwhelmingly in the General Assembly last year. It must be approved in its identical form in a succeeding session after a House of Delegates election before it can go on the ballot. The vote in the House Privileges and Elections Committee was 18-4.


In response to Ms. Mason, I must ask, is discrimination ever justified? Suppose for a moment that two men, each of a different skin color, walk into a restaurant to eat. They are both dressed properly for that particular establishment. Both are poite and respectful. However, the patron serves the first man but tells the second man, "Sorry, we don't serve your kind here. You'll have to leave." Is this discrimination justified? I think most of us would answer, no. It has no reasonable moral cause. However, suppose that two men, regardless of skin color, walk into a restaurant to eat. One is properly dressed and polite and respectful. The other is loud, obnoxious, and spewing profanities. The patron serves the first man but tells the second man, "Sorry, we don't serve your kind here. You'll have to leave." Is this discrimination justified? Absolutely, because it has reasonable moral cause.

We discriminate every day - every time we pick the mushrooms off our pizza; every time we choose a particular detergent off the store shelf; every time we decide who we're going to spend time with and who we're going to avoid like the plague. We pass judgements every day. Should we feel bad about it?

Law, by nature, discriminates. It sets and upholds standards of conduct. Law, by its very definition, presupposes that certain behaviors are good and certain behaviors are bad. To do away with discrimination is to do away with law in any form. The question isn't, as Ms. Mason asserts, that we are "writing discrimination into the Virginia Constitution." But rather the question should be: what form of discrimination is justified?

Patronizing a restaurant is a public matter. There are standards of conduct that ought to be followed. Marriage is a public institution. The same principle applies. The quest for granting marital rights to homosexual couples is not really about discrimination at all. It's about legitimizing and politicizing a behavior that breaks down natural and moral order. Nobody is saying that a homosexual shouldn't be allowed to eat in a restaurant. But when that behavior becomes legitimized at the expense of law or public order, then discrimination has its place. I think marriage is one of those places. That doesn't mean, either, that I think a marriage ammendment should absolutely be written into Virginia's constitution. I just think it shouldn't have to be.

21 Comments:

At 5:35 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

dis•crim•i•na•tion (dis-"krim-&-'nA-sh&n) n.
--> Treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit; partiality or prejudice: racial discrimination; discrimination against foreigners.


Hi Chase,

Can't say I agree with your logic here. Your example of discrimination is flawed in that while refusing service on the basis of skin color is indeed discrimination, refusing service due to disorderly conduct is not. Refusing service to someone simply because they are gay is as wrong as refusing based on skin color, religion, cultural background, country of origin, etc.

Refusing legal marriage to gays is not logical either. The pro-hetero lobby is trying to say that by allowing gays to legally wed, we risk causing a rift in the marital space-time continuum. This is faulty logic as well. By allowing two committed people to enjoy the legal benefits of an official union we only stand to strengthen that continuum. In fact, the leading cause of marital problems can be clearly outlined in any country song. To wit: Drankin', smokin', cheatin' on the old man or old lady....THESE cause problems within the marital establishment.
The General Assembly is simply responding to a cry from a majority of straight Christians. They have called up their representative and said "Vote for God, or vote for the queers" Of course, most politicians being the cowards they are, will take the path of least resistance and justify it by saying "We are trying to protect order and morality"
Really, if you take most of the article and substitute "Negro" for "homosexual", it will bear an uncanny resemblance to the articles or the early 60's.
Gay people are just that...people. There are the religious ones, the atheists, the sluts, the celibate individuals, and every single gay person I have EVER met was like that from birth. Not a single one ever chose to be homosexual anymore that i chose to be heterosexual.

And for claim that homosexuality is immoral, we must remember that morality is highly subjective. What is “moral” to one group is anathema to another. Consider the Christian service of Communion, go to a Catholic Church and you will be served wafers and wine, actual real wine. But, go to a Baptist church and suggest that they use alcohol in church and they will run you out of town on a rail. Seems the Baptists consider alcohol to be immoral. So which is it? Who is right? Another example: Go to Europe and nudity abounds. The European attitude to sex and our bodies is very open. It’s natural and they are comfortable with it. We in the States however are prudish to the point of not talking to our children about sex, contributing to countless thousands of teen pregnancies. We however love our violent movies. We love to see Rambo, and the Terminator kicking butt all over the screen. The more bombs and guns the better. The Europeans however think our fascination with violence to be immoral and troublesome. So who is right?
I did not set out to write a novella. LOL, but the subject is one about which I am passionate.

So...in answer to your question. No....discrimination is NEVER justified.

Peace and Light,
Jeff

 
At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeff
I couldn't agree more with you.

 
At 6:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your support Jeff, it's nice to know that there are rational people in this world, unlike the owner of this blog who basically uses the "it's the way it is because I say so" justification for discrimination. His "logic" is thoughoughly flawed as is his sense of "morality."

 
At 6:36 PM, Blogger Lilykins said...

Thanks Jeff
I couldn't agree with you more

 
At 6:58 PM, Blogger C.T. said...

Jeff,

Yes, I can see that you indeed are passionate about the subject. I thank you for your insight. I certainly disagree with much in your response, particularly your assertion that homosexual behavior is hereditary. I personally have never met anyone who chooses to live contrary to that desire which gives him the greatest pleasure in the moment. But, I am grateful for your feedback, and there is certainly room for dialogue on this issue.

Chase

 
At 7:06 PM, Blogger B O B said...

I appreciate both your view points and the thoughts behind your premises. It is good to see opposing points of views discussed intelligently, and with respect for the other party.

 
At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Bill said...

I am gay and in a long-term relationship. We had a ceremony and shared with our friends our vows. Jeff I appreciate your comments. I think terms of vocabulary confuse the entire desires of couples. Keep the legal benefits for those who choose marriage (church)and those who choose secular (commitment). Allow straight or gay to select which document is signed...however keep to the same rights. I believe in time society will accept that gays are citizens and have the rights of all United States citizens and this form of discrimination will be righted. Until then my partner and myself have written wills, living wills, and other documents to grant us the protection the general laws do not. We are church going members, both educators, taxpayers, contributors to our community, a parent and grandparent...we just happen to be male. There is never an excuse for discrimination or the pain it brings.

 
At 11:01 PM, Anonymous Lenn Sunderland said...

The Constitution of the United States prohibits establishment of a state religion by the 1st Amendment by establishing the separation of church and state. It is a recognized fact that your religious preference is a matter of personal choice. However, it is not a statement of fact, to state that someone's sexual orientation is a matter of personal choice. In fact, there are several studies that indicate that sexual orientation is in fact biological in nature. If that is indeed the case, then discrimination against someone solely on the basis of thier sexual orientation is no different than discrimination based on race, gender,or age, or condition of previous servitude. Yet discrimination based on those four listed conditions are prohibiteted by law, why should sexual orientation be any different?
If religous groups want to preserve the "sanctity of marriage" that is fine. All they would have to do is eliminate all legal rights and responsibilities that that religous sacrament has. Marriage is a religous sacrament that by Article One of the Bill of Rights should never have been as a legal institution baecause it establishes a religous sacrament as a legal entity. The solution therefore is to eliminate all legal rights and responsibilities from accrue from being married.
This is the kicker, however, the right would never go for that. Therefore, the only logical choice is to define marriage as a secular institution, thereby removing any religous connotations from it. That in turn would mean that discrimination based on the sex of the parties would be illegal under current law.
The religous right cannot have it both ways. Either establishment of marriage as a legal institute should not have been allowed under the 1st Article of the Bill of Rights or it should be open to anyone age who meets the requirements.
Marriage is an artifical construct based on religion. It is not the "norm" for humans. Sociology, Psychology, and history have proven monogamy is not natural condition for man. Nature has not provided Mankind with the drive for monogamy. Modern organized religion is what established marriage. Almost all old religions practiced polygamy, yet today, marriage is meant to mean two people, one man and one woman.
Marriage as practiced today is by definition discriminatory, therefore it must either be eliminated or changed. To deny someone the rights and responsiblities of a civil union based on something prohibited by the Constitution of the United States is both morally and legally wrong. For organized religion to use the law to protect a religous sacrament is a perversion of the Constitution of the United States.

 
At 7:29 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

Wow Lenn, that was OUTSTANDING!

Are you an atty by any chance? Because you should be if you are capable of this level of rational thoughtful argument in other subjects.

Thank you for your input.

Jeff

 
At 7:59 AM, Blogger C.T. said...

Lenn,
Thank you for your thoughtful response, for taking the time to articulate your position. However, I feel that I must address what I believe to be a glaring error in your argument. The first ammendment of the U.S. Constitution certainly does NOT, as you assert, "prohibit establishment of a state religion...by establishing the separation of church and state." That simply is not stated, nor is it inferred in the first ammendment. The first ammendment DOES say that "congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free excercise thereof." In other words, the legislature of the federal government shall not pass laws favoring one particular religious group over another, nor shall they prohibit religious groups from peacefully assembling.

The tenth ammendment of the constitution states that any powers not delegated to the federal government belong to the states or to the people. In other words, particular states DO have the power to legislate in religious mattters in their particular jurisdictions and in accordance with their own laws and the consent of the governed.

First of all, I disagree with your description of marriage as a sacrament. There are millions of other protestants who would disagree with that as well. However, although marriage is not a sacrament, it is a public institution. It's not a private affair. That's why the law requires witnesses. That's why the state, as well as the church, sanctions the matrimony.

There is no such thing as neutrality, particularly in law. As I have already mentioned, law, by its very nature, passes moral judgement. Even where the law is silent, it speaks loudly, because it is impossible to hold neautral ground.

For instance, if you're walking down the street and come upon a bully ruthlessly beating down a weaker person, you have two options. You either try to intervene and help the victim, or you mind your own business and do nothing to help. If you intervene, you are saying that it is wrong for the bully to assault this person. If you ignore it, then you are saying either that you are too afraid to intervene, or that the bully is perfectly justified in his actions. Either way, your saying something. You're not being neutral. The law is the same way. It cannot escape passing judgement, even where its silent.

Do we not think that our colonial forefathers knew about homosexuality? Were they bigots because they believed that civil law and order depended predominantly upon univeral moral law? Were they part of the "right wing?" Let us never become so near sighted as to think so. Just because we live 300 yeras later does not make us more enlightened.

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger Jeff said...

>>>>>Just because we live 300 yeras later does not make us more enlightened.<<<<<

It certainly should and it has on other subjects such as slavery, medicine (or do you believe that you will catch the flux if you bathe, or go out at night, and do you still bleed your childen with leeches to remove the "ill tempers" when they are sick?), and religious rights and freesdoms. Even in the Bible there are passages regarding the right to own slaves, stone our wives and children, etc. Should we adhere to these as well? Or have we evolved past this?

We have evolved and become more enlightened and that is fortunate, or the women in our lives would not have a vote in the progress of our country and the Constitution in question. In fact there would be no women on this blog either, since women would be expected to stay at home and be silent and let the men handle the things that need to handled, after all "women can't be expected to understand such things"

Your argument about neutrality is also flawed in that choosing a neutral position does not indicate tacit approval or disapproval of a given situation. Switzerland, in WWII, chose the path of neutrality. That does not mean that they approved of the Nazi movement, simply that they did not wish to be involved in the conflict that resulted.

The law does not judge morality, man does. Man writes the laws and interpretes them. There are bad laws written and they have to be re-examined from time to time and are often removed. It was law at one time that blacks must use separate water fountains, separate restaraunts, etc. In the 1954 case, Brown v Board of Education, the law requiring black children to have "seperate but equal" places of education was found not be the "moral and right" law it originally was thought to be. Why? Because we became more enlightened in the ways of civil rights. Ironic that we are having this discussion on this, the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr Day.

As I mentioned in my prior response, morality is subjective. At one time it was moral to own slaves in this country. It was "right and moral" to kick Native Americans off their land to make way for Christian white settlers. We now no longer consider this to be true. It is my fervent hope that we as a nation will continue to evolve and become more enlightened so that we truly live up to our potential of being the greatest nation ever conceived. We still have a ways to go however.

 
At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Marie said...

My comment is to Bill. Unfortunately, even though you have tken the time for you and your partner to be covered in regards to wills, living wills, etc., if the amendment to the Va. constitution is approved, they will not matter. If passed, your family, if they wish, can disregard any agreement between you and your partner because the union is not recognized.

 
At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Reverend Laurence Roberts said...

Discrimination is never justifed. The White heterosexual, 'christian' majority has little to teach about morality & ethical living, to minority ethnic groups, lesbian & gay people; and people of other religions or no named religion. Please remember the recent history of slavery, and lynching, and marginalisation & oppression of people of colour, right up to the present time. Also the displacemet & genocide of the indigenous, Indian peoples already living in 'Amrerica' before the 'settlers' arrived. Is there something in the heteroxual gene that leads to this kind of wholesale theft, lying and genocide genocide ? Is it 'natural' ? It certtainly ain't moral.
As I gay man, I want human rights and civil liberties for myself and for all. I also want freedom of religion, to believe & practice religion according to my own religion & conscience. Yet, in most parts of the USA, and in many countires, icludiing my own (U.K.) I may not marry according to my religion , or have a civil partnership. The Governement prevents what my religious body, wishes to do (Society of Fridns / Qukaers).
I will have to have a civil ceremony at the town hall; and then a sperate Quaker Meeting.
This is a personal example --but lesbians & gay men are prevented all around the world from living our lives freely, and without violent words or actions. To Chase adn others I would say, Remember : ' Careless words cost lives.'

 
At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Joe said...

People who say that marriage is and always has been between a man and a woman are clearly trapped in an American bubble. Lots of other cultures in different countries and time periods allowed same-sex marriage. Many of them simply did not have the rigid boundaries of gender.

If two people are comitted to loving each other for the rest of their lives, we should encourage that by legally recognizing that. It doesn't matter what's dangling between their legs.

Hitler, the Unibomer, the guy who sunk the Titanic... all raised by one man and one woman! Look at the tyranny wrought by heterosexuals!

 
At 1:32 PM, Blogger DAN said...

Hi Jeff:

I would like to take issue with your definition of discrimination. The definition I found for discrimination is "...the cognitive process whereby two or more stimuli are distinguished.."

Now in modern parlance, we assume that such stimuli must be somehow unethical (such as discrimination for jobs based on age). But don't give up the English language so easily! We all discriminate all the time. Certainly we don't eat bad apples, we don't buy products with bad reputations, and we don't, I don't know, fish in the rain. Everybody discriminates. Separating things into groups to be judged is as part of human nature -- in fact it is human nature. When those groups are bigoted -- separating gays and straights, separating blacks and whites, etc then we have a social problem.

I've talked this issue through on several boards, and while I am non-religious and straight, I support gay unions. I think the word "marriage" however, belongs to our religious and social traditions, and should not be tampered with. If the state of Virginia wants to call a gopher a groundhog, a violin a fiddle, or a man and woman in civil union married, then we absolutely have that right.

So for those arguing for civil unions for gay people, you have my sympathy and support. Certainly it is a feel-good cause, and I believe that a Christian and moral nation will not allow same-sex unions to receive different treatment than traditional ones. So time is on our side. But it might take a while.

Having said that, there is an argument that the terms "marriage" and "family" have significant social meaning, and that those institutions currently represent the most evolved way of having a cohesive society. Marriage is not simply based on love and commitment. At the individual level, sure. But at the state and national level, there is an overriding interest in keeping society functioning as well as possible. If love and commitment were all it took, then somebody explain to me why three people can't get married? What is really wrong with bigamy if all the people love and are committed to one another? Romantic love and life-time commitment are great things and should be cherished, but the definition of marriage is not just about those things.

Note that this is not by any means a religious argument. So those of you who choose to somehow view all of the opposition to gay marriage as being based on religious people and beliefs do a disservice to the discussion, in my opinion.

So I support both the action in the legislature to define marriage as only between a man and a woman and also the national (and core) definition of civil unions, to include same-sex partners. But I feel that this second opinion has many troubling details that need further discussion. Whenever I see one side in a debate ascribe to the other side some sort of religious fervor, it perks my antenna up. It's a cop-out and short-cut to keep from really discussing things.

Great post! Great comments too.

 
At 2:28 PM, Blogger Dale said...

As a gay man, I know I can have all of the emotional bonds that keep all loving couples together. I hope one day our citizens will say to me that it is okay for me to own property with a life partner, file joint tax returns, and the other legal privileges all other couples enjoy. I'm not interested in changing the definition of marriage. It's in your heart and your home where true marriage is defined, anyway, and my love is as good and pure as any one else's.

 
At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

after seeing the movie Brokeback Mountain, I think it would be wise for the gay comunity to start a ban on products and services from states that discriminate.

 
At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting

 
At 1:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan,

Your comments on polygamy are interesting. A government panel in Canada recently recommended that marriage be legal for more than two people there. Let's hope that someday the U.S. comes to its senses and allows that as well. I not only oppose sex discrimination in marriage, but also support polyamorous unions. One step at a time though!

By the way, I agree that you didn't give a religious argument, since you didn't give an argument at all.

You said marriage is "more than" love and commitment (and, presumably, various legal rights which I assume you'd support for all people). Well, then, please enlighten us. What "more" is it about? Heterosexual privilege? Patriarchy? (Yes, in my opinion.)

I mean, I agree there's probably more to it. But I'm trying to figure out what more there is that would necessitate sex discrimination. (Beyond religious-based or other-based hatred or discomfort with LGB people.)

Do you actually know any LGB people? In person, not electronically? If so, have you discussed their feelings about this, outside of intellectual debate? (Straight people debating of our lives is okay I guess -- I'm pro-intellectual -- but without some understanding of the emotional intensity of this issue for us, and without being able to see us as real people, rather than abstract entities whose lack of direct reproduction you (may?) imagine is a "threat" to social stability -- without all that your intellectualizing is just really superficial.

Also, I should mention, documented same-sex marriages, in a Christian context no less, have been happening for at least 1500 years. They have not always been accepted by straight people. But you'd be hard-pressed to label one type of marriage as more "traditional". (As long as we're fighting to keep definitions static.)

Face it, we're a part of humanity just like anyone else, and we deserve to be treated the same. (As do people in polyamorous arrangements.)

By the way, so you know where I'm coming from with this, I'm in the "T" part of "LGBT", but this issue of marriage, as such, is really only an LGB issue. So it also doesn't affect me directly since I've become straight through transitioning from male to female. But having lived a long time publoicly presenting as a gay man, I still feel like I can talk about it a little, and certainly have an understanding that most straight people don't. The issue also affects me indirectly since it seems to be fanning the flames of hatred against all sexual minorities, not just LGB people per se. (And I feel like I can say "we" since I'm still queer-identified even though I'm straight.) While I'm not polyamorous, I know some people who are, and don't see any good reason why they shouldn't be able to visit each other in the hospital, etc.

 
At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Johann said...

To get back to the original premise, "Is Discrimination Ever Justified?", the author gives us examples of justifiable discrimination, as when we make decisions about what we will eat, or with whom we will associate. Dan brings more light by giving us the dictionary definition: "the cognitive process whereby two or more stimuli are distinguished"

But there are two forms of discrimination: Discrimination based upon prejudice, and discrimination based upon facts. It's all a matter of how we have disciplined our "cognitive processes". Do we make choices based upon fears, hatreds, and misinformation, or do we make choices based upon facts? If our choices affect others, don't we have a moral responsibility to make sure our choices are rational?

Prejudicial discrimination is never justified, whereas knowledgeable discrimination is always a moral personal choice. So it can be moral for a restaurant server to refuse service to someone whom they can see is behaving badly. But, when one relies on personal prejudices (pre-judgements, not dependent upon circumstances or facts) to refuse that same service, they have behaved immorally. They have permitted their own fears and/or ignorance to injure someone else.

Marriage is a sacrament, at least to Roman Catholics (soon to be a majority on the Supreme Court), but it is also a civil institution. In terms of civil equality, economic and legal benefits, and family stability, it is the civil institution that matters. Not a single legal or economic benefit of marriage is dependent upon that marriage having been performed in or blessed by a religious organization.
A moral response to demands for marriage equality requires that we get past our personal fears about others, recognize our own prejudices, and rely on facts. If we sift out the arguments that are based on religious tradition or heterosexist prejudice, we are left with no rational argument for excluding same-sex couples from marriage.

 
At 10:54 PM, Blogger Dinh Ha said...

đồng tâm
game mu
cho thuê nhà trọ
cho thuê phòng trọ
nhac san cuc manh
số điện thoại tư vấn pháp luật miễn phí
văn phòng luật
tổng đài tư vấn pháp luật
dịch vụ thành lập công ty trọn gói

“Lẫy lừng thiên cổ nhất kiếm phong!" Sở Dương ngâm nga một tiếng, mũi trường kiếm tựa như đột nhiên biến mất không thấy, nhưng kiếm phong lại tựa như là mặt trời nóng nhô lên cao, phát ra liệt mang cực kỳ rực rỡ!

Chiêu thứ tư, chính là kiếm chiêu của mũi Cửu Kiếp kiếm, nhưng một chiêu này lại là thuộc về kiêm chiêu của kiếm phong!

Cửu Kiếm kiếm cửu Trọng Thiên kiếm chiêu thứ năm. Kiếm khí gào thét, ánh chiều hạ xuống đỉnh núi, nhưng ở nơi này một kiếm này, phát ra hào quang lại đủ có thể lấy so sánh mặt trời chói chang nhô lên chính ngọ!

Ủy công tử quát khẽ: "Tới hay!" Lắc mình bổ lên, không thêm vào né tránh, cứng rắn xông ngay mặt.

Xẹt xẹt xẹt... Kiếm khí gào thét, kiếm quang tung hoành!

Áo xanh cả người Úy công tử không ngừng truyền ra tiếng bị cắt vụn, nhưng hắn lại là càng đánh càng hưng phấn. Điên cuồng hét lên một tiếng toàn công không thủ!

Thân thể Sở Dương bị kiếm khí mang theo lặng không dựng lên, từ từ nói: "Tung hoành phong văn các tây đông!"
Hốt một tiếng thay đổi bất ngờ, lại là phân biệt rõ ràng biến thành hai cỗ nước lũ, hướng về phía dưới Úy công tử đột nhiên đánh xuống!

Cửu Kiếp kiếm, Cửu Trọng Thiên kiếm pháp, chiêu thứ sáu.

 

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