Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Discrimination

It seems apparent, and I've read some evidence in psychology textbooks to support this, that people need someone to hate. The first thing any good rhetorician does in a speech is to set up a division between those whom he is speaking for (or to) and those who are supposed to be regarded as the enemy. All wars are predicated on the idea that those who one is fighting are the bad guys, and you're supposed to hate them. Furthermore, there is generally only one type or group of people at any given time that someone is supposed to hate. In the earliest roots of America, it was the British, after independence it was the Native Americans, after they were destroyed it became the African-Americans, then the Nazis, then the Communists. Now it seems that our hatred is supposed to be directed at Middle-Easterners of all varieties.

The hatred for the Middle East, though, is ill-conceived. It was created by the actions of a few, not the sentiments of the whole group, and our response (war in Iraq) was not a reaction on the part of the country, but rather by some over eager politicians and a segment of reluctant Americans. Sure, our patriotism stood strong and we were a very solidified block against the 'terrorists' immediately after September 11th, but it only took a few months for that enemy, that hatred to get old.

It should come as no surprise that soon after the patriotism inspired by 9-11 died out we started looking for a new group to hate, a group that is still being marginalized both socially and politically. It has only been in recent years that the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender population has been seen very much, and I posit that this is a result of America needing an enemy to be united against. Given recent measures to create 'defense of marriage amendment,' the debate over what constitutes marriage, and what rights the GLBT population should be granted, there is obviously tumult in the government. One only needs walk down the street to hear people using the word 'gay' as a pejorative term or to hear the obviously bias many in the United States have against GLBT people.

Here is an analysis of a recent court case in Illinois where the primary point in question was the gender of one of the 'parents' of a child. In short, the person who would later be known as Sterling Simmons was born a female but always identified with a male gender identity. He met Jennifer Simmons, whom he was unable to marry given his femaleness. They had a child by way of artificial insemination, where he was listed as the father, including assuming all of the rights associated with fatherhood. Later, Sterling had his ovaries and uterus removed, obtained a new birth certificate claiming him to be male, and married Jennifer.

7 years later, they separate, and each seek custody of the child. The court denies Sterling anything outside of visitation rights because he has no legal claim as father, as he wasn't male then nor now. A variety of other Illinois state laws would allow him to stand as father if he was, in fact, male at the time of trial. The court rules that he is not male.

First of all, Illinois needs to stop issuing birth certificates that say male to people who the state actually deems to be female. This, though, is hardly the larger question at hand.

I am frequently told by pro-DOMA (defense of marriage act) folks that the reason why two members of the same sex can't marry is because the definition of marriage clearly states that it is only allowed between opposite sexes. It isn't a matter of not granting the GLBT population marriage rights, it is a matter of impossibility, as they could not fulfill the definition of the term.

I don't quite know how they hope to rely on an argument from definitions when they can't even define male or female, but lets take their argument as solid for a moment. I have a solution that can end discrimination against GLBT people and pacify those who persecute them. Simply end government discrimination.

How do I mean this? First of all, remove government involvement in marriage altogether. Allow churches to marry who ever they want, for whatever reason they want, but end discrimination allowed by the government. Discrimination of any kind allowed by out government is blatanly unconstitutional.

Furthermore, in a custody case such as this, ignore gender altogether. To make a decision based on gender would be to discriminate, which cannot be allowed in a working democracy. The parents of a child, that is, the two people who have custody, are the biological parents. If those parents wish to transfer their custody right to another, then that is their choice. In this particular case, the burden of parentage was clearly transferred to Sterling, and he was obviously the father by way of transferred responsibility.

What ever happened to blind justice and equality before the law? In the words of F. A. Hayek, "The great aim for the struggle of liberty has been equality before the law." Individuals and private organizations may hate or discriminate against whom ever they wish; that is their right. But the law, the government, must not make any decisions based on gender, race, sexual preference, creed, nationality, or other superficial traits. Only then can democracy flourish.

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