Saturday, May 17, 2003

Rights & Reason: Sullivan puts pragmatism over principle

Andrew Sullivan is a fine writer, but sometimes he says things that are just plain stupid:

The president may not want to endorse gay marriage; but there are concrete measures he could take to strike a centrist position. The most obvious would be to endorse the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would give gays the same workplace protections as other minorities. 88 percent of the country endorses this. It's a simple case of workplace fairness. It doesn't involve any approval of homosexual sex, since this is about public workplaces. It could and should exempt religious groups. And it would be a huge sign to the center of the country that Bush is actually an inclusive and compassionate president. I've had my libertarian doubts about such laws in the past; but I cannot see any reason why they should apply to every other group - including religious denominations - but not to gays.

Violating the rights of business owners to choose their own employees is not a “libertarian” issue, but a basic question of individual rights. And if such “non-discrimination” laws are justified for certain businesses, then why are they not okay for religious groups? Contrary to Sullvan’s definition, private businesses are not “public workplaces.” This is the same language used by those who would justify smoking bans in restaurants and oppressive zoning laws. It is not the kind of thing that should be advanced in the name of protecting the rights of gays or any other self-proclaimed group within society.

Statements like Sullivan’s do nothing more than play into the hands of irrational bigots like Rick Santorum by turning the issue away from protecting individual rights to using the government as a means of shoving “tolerance” down people’s throats. Let me be clear: The government has no right to legislate the private sexual behavior of consenting adults. But at the same time, the government also has no right to legislate the private business practices of employers, no matter how distasteful they seem to 88% of the electorate.

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