Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Special Treatment Or Inequal Treatment?

With things like affirmative action still looming over our head in some form or fashion, it’s not unusual for people to think that minorities are getting special treatment by the government. This is especially pertinent and topical with GLBT people. Stories seem to indicate that there is a push in some segments of GLBT activism to force acceptance of homosexuals in political culture. These may be isolated in nature, but that sort of mindset is troubling to me, since I can see both sides of this argument. On the one hand, you have people steeped in traditions that oppose it or just have a lack of experience with GLBT people that inhibits understanding them as people with the same wants, needs and traits that straight people have. But then there are those that have been persecuted, isolated, ostracized and scapegoated as GLBT people by the majority and feel like they have to fight for their rights that much more forcefully in return. That sort of vengeful posturing might have some justification in the sense of being aggressive, but it can also send the wrong message about the community as a whole, both gay activists and straight supporters. There is a middle ground that should be publicized more. Combative language doesn’t make things seem more justified on the side that has more supporters but no defense for why they behave in such a headstrong manner. It’s not damaging to be enthusiastic about social justice and other associated goods in the world, but the methods we seek to attain them through should align with the values that are sought to be realized. Equality and tolerance demands equal treatment and congenial behavior towards even those we strongly disagree with.

Accusations continue to fly in this proverbial culture war that the GLBT community is being treated unusually well in America as of recently, “getting away” with things other people, like pedophiles, couldn’t ever do even in today’s more liberal climate. But GLBT people are not getting special treatment unless the government officializes a homophobic registry or otherwise passes legislation that would give them undue favor and protections. Simply having the option through a privately funded group is certainly iffy, but it doesn’t make disagreeing with homosexuals illegal and any hate crime legislation already has qualifications in place about imminent fear being how it can be prosecuted. A qualification between the culture being concerned about GLBT rights and the government being concerned is important, since the former is more grassroots in nature and the government’s organization and power being put behind something is a bit more direct, especially with the legal ramifications.

Some employees at colleges have been fired (technically they resigned, more likely) because of their refusal to counsel people who were struggling with homosexuality in a way that disagreed with their religious beliefs. The problem with this line of objection is that the college in question where this incident occurred was public, so one could argue this is a public accommodation issue in that you can’t claim your religious objections are grounds to deny service to someone or refuse to do your job consistently, such as employees of adoption agencies refusing to take requests from gay couples. There are times when firing someone merely because they disagree with a company about gay rights is questionable, but the company may very well have the right to do so if they are privatized. Gay rights should be a priority, but we should be civil to each other in advancing this cause. We shouldn’t treat the intolerant with further intolerance, but only their beliefs, which are not absolutely identical with them as a person, who deserves respect regardless of what heinous beliefs they hold.

When speaking about rights, we have to understand first and foremost that they are protected by the government, but not forced through legislation without justification. GLBT rights are not something we should determine through popular opinion if it stands to reason that the traits of GLBT are not malleable and essential to their person. Religion is protected due to the cultural and societal significance it possesses, even though it is quite easily adjusted with changes in convictions and new evidence and consideration. But sexual orientation and gender identity, while somewhat malleable, are not so changeable as to be regarded as a matter of caprice. We don’t just choose to be attracted to a certain sex, both or none, nor do we entirely choose our identities in terms of what society judges as masculine and feminine. Guarding them does not have to imply special treatment by any means, but it doesn’t mean we protect any so called right to be a bigot, especially if it involves treating those you disagree with harshly, unfairly or even as social outcasts when they don’t deserve it. Of course we have a right to disagree with people, but equality under the law should also mean we are treated equally as much as possible by the government, which means that disagreements are acceptable within reason. There should not be such divisiveness and negativity based on things we disagree with, since tolerance can be exercised without people contradicting their religious beliefs that see certain things as immoral or wrong. It’s better to treat people equally and not give special treatment that is unwarranted than to try to justify inequality in any sense when it can be done in an equitable manner. Protections extended to groups that are considered special cases, such as GLBT, races, etc, have limitations, but are not unjustified when the likelihood exists that they could be targeted because of their being part of that group by bigotry and prejudice. As tolerant and open as America is, it behooves us to protect citizens from hate crimes in order to truly be a free and just country. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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