Friday, August 28, 2009

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Each news story about Utah's new governor, Gary Herbert, makes me wince a little more. Former Gov. Huntsman, provided Utah's gay community with some hope for progress in equality; however, that hope has been snuffed out with the announcement that Herbert does not believe protected classes should exist because:

"We don't have to have a rule for everybody to do the right thing. We ought to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do."

As far as existing protected classes go (gender, race, disability, etc.) this logic just doesn't hold up. If people had just done the right thing and treated people fairly, we would not have needed a civil rights movement. Did those who performed lynchings think they were doing the right thing? The truth of the matter is that people do not agree on what the right thing is. The purpose of the law is to define these grey areas in order to protect the innocent. Herbert poses the following question in defense of this point:

"Where do you stop? That's the problem going down that slippery road. Pretty soon we're going to have a special law for blue-eyed blondes."

Okay, so written protections of gays will lead to written protections of Aryans? (Wait, isn't that what Hitler did…. Ooh, that's pretty shifty even if it wasn't intentional, Mr. Herbert—tying gay rights to white supremacy…). Law is dictated not only by moral right, but also by necessity. Let's face it: people who don't fit into Utah's conventional scheme of gender attraction or identity have been discriminated against in the workplace and that should be the chief motivation for implementing such a law. Laws aren't based on how people should act, but what they actually do.


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