Thursday, July 2, 2009

Compromising Positions

I'm all for compromise. I understand that oftentimes at the political level it's the only way to get things done and some change is often better than none.

In fact, I back laws to support civil unions for gay couples instead of gay marriage because the important thing to me is the result not the nomenclature. I understood that in order to pass a smoking ban at the state level, there would need to be stupid exceptions involving casinos and mom-and-pop bars.

But everybody draws the line somewhere.

And I draw it here:
If you're passing a non-discrimination bill, you shouldn't let anyone discriminate. Either it's right or it's wrong. Yet Allegheny County council just passed a bill that said you can't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity EXCEPT if you're a charitable, fraternal, or religious organization. What??? If you're a blood-sucking corporation, you better not discriminate but if you're a "charitable" organization, you can?

And as Sarah Rose, an attorney with the ACLU says:
"the problem with the current version of the bill is that it gives certain religious organizations an advantage over other groups, thereby violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."Luckily for the religious organizations in Allegheny county, the courts take a long time to sort these things out, so they'll be able to discriminate ad nauseum for the next decade or so.

So here's a shout-out to the Pittsburgh city council who managed to pass an anti-discrimination bill back in 1990 without resorting to illegal compromises. I implore you to do the same in regards to smoking.


Christina said...

The article you cite in which Sara Rose was quoted is from an earlier version of the bill. That language was amended last night to no longer violate the Establishment Clause, although there still is a religious exception in the bill, as the other article notes.

It's not perfect, for sure, but it's way better than what was there for citizens who live beyond the Pittsburgh city borders before, which is nothing. Now restaurants and hotels can't refuse to serve gay couples, and people can't be fired because their gender expression doesn't match what their boss thinks it should be.

illyrias said...

Just so I'm clear, the establishment cause states that: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". That clause is no longer being violated because fraternal and charitable organizations are also exempt? Which means the council was just making frivolous exemptions?

Or is there another reason?

Christina said...

The reason the previous language violated the establishment clause was because it allowed religions who claim that, for example, not admitting women or actively gay men to the priesthood are firm tenets of their religion to be exempt from the ordinance.

However, religions that are more inclusive and don't claim these tenets (think, for example, the Unitarians), would be subject to the ordinance. Subjecting some religions to the ordinance but not others establishes a preference of religion, illegal under the U.S. Constitution.

The language that ended up in the bill is identical to the language of the Philadelphia ordinance. While it hasn't been a completely smooth path for them in Philly, one way they've found to ensure that organizations receiving county funding don't discriminate is to make it a requirement of the contract those organizations sign with the county to adhere to the ordinance. This is something Allegheny County could do as well.

snowbird said...

What if the governments mandated that all currently smoke-free hospitality venues MUST provide a smoking section to accommodate smokers, against the wishes of business owners who choose
to go smoke-free of their own free will?

That wouldn't be fair, would it?
Neither are government mandated smoking bans.