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"Equal rights" for some, fewer rights for others

By Michael M. Bates
web posted January 31, 2005

Gov. Rod Blagojevich

On Friday, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich took time out from his breathtakingly courageous crusade against certain video games to sign what’s described as a "gay rights" law. You’ll forgive me for not cheering.

The new legislation adds "sexual orientation" to an existing law prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations. Sexual orientation is defined in the bill as "actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person’s designated sex at birth." Good thing they made it so clear.

It’s nonsense like this that partially explains why so many voters view Democrats with suspicion. In purportedly protecting equal rights for homosexuals, Blagojevich and Company have reduced the rights of others.

At the bill signing, the gov quoted Jesus, which was ironic. That’s because one obvious group that has lost rights are churches that believe homosexuality is wrong.

If a church doesn’t hire people on the basis of their homosexuality, the church will be in violation of the new law. Some equal rights legislation specifically exempts religious organizations.

But not the bill signed by Blagojevich. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Democrat Senator Carol Ronen of Chicago, one of the law’s principal sponsors, "said churches and religious groups need to be held to the same anti-discrimination standards as the rest of society. ‘If that is their goal, to discriminate against gay people, this law wouldn't allow them to do that.’"

Funny, isn’t it, how the same liberals who are fixated on the phrase "separation of church and state," have no problem with the state limiting the rights of churches?

And that will be just the beginning. If similar laws approved in other jurisdictions are any indicator, plenty of government-approved turmoil is ahead.

You may recall the case of the thwarted lesbian roommate in Madison, Wisconsin a number of years ago. Two women renting a house advertised for roommates. They were fairly selective, turning down one applicant for being too boring.

Another of the rejected hopefuls was a lesbian who filed a complaint under the city’s fair-housing ordinance. The Madison Equal Opportunities Commission ordered the would-be landlords to pay the complainant damages, write a public letter of apology to her and undergo —you guessed it — sensitivity training. How in the world did we ever survive until the advent of sensitivity training?

Naturally, the case ended up in the courts. The last I read of it was in 1997, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of one of the women penalized. She had been ordered by Wisconsin courts to pay the accuser hundreds of dollars in damages and over $10,000 in court fees.

If I were the applicant who was turned down for being too boring, I’d be chagrined. Like the lesbian, she didn’t move into the house. Unlike the lesbian, however, she had no recourse. The fair-housing regulation didn’t apply in her circumstances.

That underscores what’s wrong with many so-called equal rights laws. They don’t confer equal rights, but special rights. They impinge on private property rights and freedom of association.

If you’re in a government-approved group, and in Illinois that also includes individuals with an unfavorable discharge from the military, you are entitled to exceptional consideration. The new law claims that nothing in it should be construed as requiring preferential treatment, but we know from past experience that that’s as meaningless as a Clinton sworn deposition.

In the real world, employers, landlords, lenders and other businesses will make decisions that minimize the possibility of being hauled before the Illinois Department of Human Rights. That also is ironic. A human right is one that applies to all people, not just those of a particular race or age or what they now call sexual orientation.

Some critics have charged that the new law paves the way for gay marriage. Maybe it does.

In any case, it deserves condemnation as special interest legislation that creates new forms of discrimination and may eventually lead to a backlash. Moreover, the law will doubtless exacerbate the victim mentality from which some folks already suffer.

Homosexuals deserve nothing less, or more, than the human rights that all Americans are guaranteed.

Mike Bates is the author of Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths, which is available at Barnesandnoble.com, Booksamillion.com, Amazon.com or iUniverse.com and can be ordered through most bookstores. This story originally appeared in the January 27, 2005 Oak Lawn (IL) Reporter.


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