As those who follow the news are aware, there is now an organized campaign against the proposed ordinance that would grant equal rights to gay and lesbian residents of Anchorage. As I’ve stated before, I expect those with whom I disagree to do so based on their personal beliefs and I consider it inappropriate to belittle or condemn their points of view. Their concerns do deserve answers, however, so here’s a start:
Wanted to pose two quick questions. Do you have any real life statistics of gays or lesbians here in Anchorage who have been denied loans, jobs or places to live based on their sexual orientation ? and Do you believe that the owners of Mad Myrna’s, a gay bar downtown, should have the right to refuse to hire someone who applies for a bartender job if they walk into the interview with an “Exodus International” or “Love Won Out” t-shirt on ? Both of these groups are ministries that work with gay, lesbian and transgendered people who are trying to move away from a lifestyle they are no longer comfortable with. Hope to hear back from you.
Jim Minnery – President
Alaska Family Council
Mr. Minnery raises two very good points. Regarding the former the answer is no, I don’t have any real life Anchorage statistics of gays & lesbians being discriminated against because they don’t exist. If a gay or lesbian were discriminated against in our community to what statistic-tracking agency would they complain? To the best of my knowledge there is no local, state or federal redress based on sexual orientation so, while I prefer to make decisions based on empirical data, in this instance I have to rely on the anecdotal evidence I receive via personal stories, e-mails, phone calls, blog posts and the like. And there is plenty there. As an example, here’s an excerpt from an e-mail:
My landlord is a [affiliation withheld]. He is also the only person in the world to whom I am in the closet. He has told me in no uncertain terms that he is biased and he is proud of it, and he would never rent to a fag. Stands to reason if he finds out about my story, I will be thrown out.
On the latter point I believe any employer should have the right to decline to hire an employee that will not do an adequate job furthering the company’s mission. Prior to Mr. Minnery’s post I’d never heard of either organization he mentions but if an owner of Mad Myrna’s encountered the situation he describes I believe they would have the right to not hire the individual in question. Similarly:
And guess what? None of those decisions would be related to sexual orientation, religion, race, the environment or the Community Reinvestment Act. I’ve hired a lot of people in my professional life, and interviewed many, many more. Any job applicant who demonstrates ignorance of a potential employer’s mission, as the above examples did, clearly does not merit an offer of employment. But all that is beside the point – the Anchorage Equal Rights code does not establish an affirmative right to housing, education or employment; rather it restrains others from denying access to those essential needs. And even if someone is denied access they have to prove the reason relates to “race, religion, age, sex, color, national origin, marital status, or physical disability” (as the current code reads). Further, employers always have the right to impose codes of conduct, dress codes and other standards that employees must follow.
Here’s another question, posed by Dan Fagan:
…if a government bureaucrat were able to determine whether someone denied a potential tenant housing because he or she is gay, a bigger question must be asked: should that be illegal?
What if, for example, a young couple with young children buys a two-unit condo, live in one side and rent out the other. What if the couple decides they don’t want a gay couple living next door because they don’t want to expose their young children to that lifestyle? Does that decision make the couple homophobic, evil, or haters of gay people? Or is the young couple simply trying to avoid questions like why were Bob and Steve kissing in the front yard?
Another interesting point, but apparently rendered moot by the Fair Housing Act. Under that federal legislation the owner an owner-occupied home, duplex, triplex or four-plex has the right to use any criteria they wish in determining to whom they will rent.
A more general concern, one I discussed with Dr. Jerry Prevo earlier this week, is whether the rights of gays & lesbians should be secondary to the right of people to exercise their belief in opposition to homosexuality. In other words, shouldn’t someone whose religion considers homosexuality a sin be able to decline to hire or rent a home to a gay or lesbian person?
This is a challenging question in that it appears to pit religious rights against those of sexual orientation. If you follow the argument to its logical conclusion, however, one could claim their faith allows them to discriminate against those of another gender, race or other differences. That’s a slippery slope upon which I am unwilling to tread. I do feel that religious institutions should be able to discriminate, and both the current and proposed code allow for that.
Finally, some people believe that homosexuality is a choice.
While debate remains about whether a person is “born gay,” it is clear that some people are gay. And a homosexual person could suppress their sexuality just as a heterosexual could but, in the end, one is still gay and the other still straight. So, while it’s fair to recognize that one certainly cannot choose one’s race or gender, we must also acknowledge that there are choices, to varying degrees, that currently qualify for Equal Rights protections – marital status, for example.
As I said above and to Dr. Prevo, I do not wish to demonize those with whom I disagree. If there are suggestions about language changes in the current version of the equal rights ordinance – Dr. Prevo had one – I’m willing to consider them. What’s most important to me is a thoughtful, respectful debate.
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