Why Discrimination is Inescapable

Last week, California banned state-funded travel to Texas, saying that a new adoption law passed by Texas is discriminatory. California law restricts the use of state funds to travel to places that “authorize discrimination” on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Seven other states are on California’s no-travel list.

Ironically, in issuing such a ban, California is itself guilty of discrimination.

To discriminate means to recognize a difference between two or more things. It is a recognition of the fact that things are not the same. And that is precisely what California is doing in issuing its travel ban. It is saying that the eight states are not the same as the other forty-two states.

Every choice that we make, from the most mundane to the most life shaping, is an act of discrimination.

All of us make choices that others may regard as unfair. When government becomes the arbiter of what is fair and what is unfair, then ideas will necessarily be censored. Those who hold ideas that the government deems unfair become criminals by that fact. They are legally prohibited from acting on their ideas, not because they have violated the rights of others, but because their ideas offend others.

Again, any attempt to ban discrimination is itself an act of discrimination. It is an act of identifying what is fair and what is unfair (at least in the eyes of anti-discrimination advocates).

Certainly, many individuals will use irrelevant or irrational criteria when making decisions. They may choose to hire individuals solely on the basis of race or sex. They may refuse to serve individuals who have a lifestyle that they don’t like. But they have a moral right to use such criteria, to make such choices, and to act accordingly.  This does not mean that individuals have a right to use force against others. A racist has a right to hold irrational ideas; he does not have a right to burn a cross in the yard of his black neighbor. A homophobe has a right to regard gays as repugnant; he does not have a right to assault them.

The proper purpose of government is the protection of our right to live as we choose, not determine what criteria are relevant and rational in making such choices. Government cannot force us to be rational. It can only protect our freedom to think and act rationally. This not preclude the possibility that individuals may act irrationally. But so long as they do not use force or fraud against others, they should be free to act as they choose.

But the advocates of anti-discrimination legislation believe that force will overcome ignorance and irrationality. They believe that individuals should be prohibited from acting as they choose. They believe that discrimination is inherently wrong. And so they do the very thing that they claim to oppose–they discriminate. Discrimination is inescapable.

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