Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Treatment, Impact, and Tradition

In a business law class I took we discussed two types of employer discrimination, both illegal. The first and more direct, is "disparate treatment" - Individuals are treated differently because of who they are i.e. "We won't hire you because you are black." This is the most obvious form.

The second, is "disparate impact" where everyone is treated the same but it results in different impact on one group because of their minority status. The example in class was a grocery store that required employees to be clean shaven. Blacks, being much more likely to suffer from skin irritations and 'shaving bumps,' were more adversely affected by this policy than were whites, hence the policy had a disparate impact and was therefore discriminatory.

Some of the more vocal in the gay rights movement like to draw comparisons between their contemporary struggle to wed with those of American blacks during the civil rights movement. They are wrong. Unlike Jim Crow laws there is nothing in the law today that expressly treats homosexuals differently than heterosexuals. A gay man can marry a woman just as I can marry a woman, a gay man cannot marry another man just as I am prohibited. There are no rights that I have that are denied to a homosexual. The gay marriage issue is clearly one of disparate impact, not disparate treatment that is often cited, with the aim giving their case a rhetorical boost.

I make no value judgment on this, it's just an observation. I wholly support gay marriage, (previous columns here and here) I just get tired of the overblown rhetoric coming from both sides.... I suppose that is politics, but I don't have to like it!

I think the "it's tradition" argument is really lame too. Arguing that we should keep the institution of marriage as it is for the sake of tradition is just as hollow as arguing for change for the sake of change or diversity for the sake of diversity. Are there truly any original traditions left in the world that have been preserved since man's incarnation? No, today's traditions only exist because at some point in the past they replaced other traditions. There is no reason to keep doing something strictly on the grounds that that's what we've always done. Especially when it isn't what we've always done. In the strict sense of the word the tradition of marriage was lost long ago, it's time for the next step in its evolution.


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