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Anti-Discrimination Laws Are Anti-Liberty
There is a terrible perversion alive in America today. Strangely enough, it was created and is being perpetrated by the very group that is accused—wrongly—of perversion itsef. The group is gay people and the perversion is of the concept of “rights”.
Gay activists claim that discrimination is wrong, because it denies a person’s right to patronize a certain establishment or work at a job without an inessential characteristic such as sexuality being brought into consideration. They claim that these are “human” rights, not “special rights” and that no decent human could claim that people have a “right” to deny people these things based on a personal (and irrational) prejudice.
Notice that what is being invoked is the concept of rights. Is this valid? Or is this a case of the logical fallacy Ayn Rand identified, the “stolen concept”?
The American Constitution guarantees every American the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And, as the above quote eloquently elaborates, rights are transformed in practice to that of property. These are not rights by virtue of being placed on paper 200 years ago and called such, but by virtue of the requirements of human beings. Notice the intentional wording, however (particularly the pursuit of happiness)—rights are inhibitory. They can not depend on the actions of any person, but only the inaction of others. “Rights” that depend on others are not rights but privileges. Therefore, no person can claim the “right” to the effort of others, whether that effort is labor, money (if honestly obtained, a result of effort), or any other property.
What concrete existent is referenced by the concept of property? It may be a patch of land; it may be a more tangible object; or it may be a business that you’ve built or bought. If someone trespasses on your patch of land, the police can be summoned to forcibly remove the person. If someone steals an object that is yours, the police can be summoned to find the person, recover your object, and punish the thief. If someone seeks to gain entrance to your business or employment in your company—the legislator is summoned to force you to provide the service or the job. On what grounds? On the grounds that one group of people have decided that you do not have the prerogative to use your property as you see fit—to hire whom you want, to allow whom you want to enter your doors, to provide a service to whom you want. On the grounds that a group of people’s morality–a commendable moral view that sees gay people as human beings and not sexual perverts—can be forced onto others by virtue of the idea that they have no right to think what they think or feel what they feel. It is ironic that gay people defend their right to live their lives as they see fit with the argument that one can’t legislate morality—and then turn around and attempt to legislate morality. Anti-discrimination legislation does not in itself tell a person, “You can’t think what you want.” It is more insidious than that—it tells a person, “You may think what you want, but you may not act on it.”
Of course, calls from gay activists for anti-discrimination legislation are not expressed in these terms. They are typically expressed as a defense of liberty: the “liberty” of a person to patronize a certain restaurant, visit a certain club, or work at a particular place. But no one has a right to a meal, a social setting, or a job. And no rights can be secured by denying other rights—i.e., a right to liberty can not in practice deny the right to property.
This is not a popular view today. It is not a comfortable position to defend the rights of bigots who do not look past their fear of The Great Unknown and realize that gay people are not a threat. But it is exactly those rights that I must defend. It is a great thing that the winds of public opinion have shifted to a more realistic view of gay people. But that wind can easily shift again, and it may be my rights that are deemed dispensable next in the name of “morality” or “political correctness.”
So what are the appropriate responses to bigots and homophobia? The first thing is to realize that the shift in the public’s perception and understanding of gay people was not accomplished by law and regulation. It was accomplished by visibility—gay people must live their lives with honesty and integrity, principles that are vital to all human beings. Being “out,” not allowing oneself to be “closeted by omission,” being unafraid to be who you are—these are all somewhat abstract but powerful tools for chipping away at the mountain of misconception that seems to sometimes face us. There is also nothing wrong with public pressure—so long as it takes the form of persuasion and not government force. Protests, letters to the editor, voluntary movements within a company—these are all avenues that have worked in the past. Most importantly, however, are the right ideas. Individualism, Reason, Objectivity—vs. Homophobia, Racism, Collectivism.
The stakes are high but the rewards are rich. Live your life by the right principles and achieve the happiness you deserve—by consequence you will show that you are worthy of respect and consideration, not by virtue of being gay but by virtue of being human.
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