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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dixon and Christoffersen

By massive margins, Americans disagree with job discrimination against gays and lesbians. In the 2000s, surveys have variously found the public in favor of anti-discrimination laws by margins no lower than the 60s and 70s percentiles. See, for example, this article on the American public's attitudinal changes over time, which includes this graphic:

Note the extremely strong opposition to job discrimination. I'm actually surprised it is so low, because in my area, I would say at least 95% of the people oppose job discrimination against gays. Maybe that is the reverse product of the Bible Belt, in which religion is strong on the topic of sin, and thus just the vast majority of people are convinced that they themselves are sinners. If sinners weren't employed, most of the population of Georgia would be on welfare, and those that were employed would be very tired hypocrites. (Note: in Baptist territory, not going to church is a sin, not tithing is a sin, drinking (any drinking) and smoking are sins, premarital sex is a sin, divorce except on exceedingly limited grounds is a sin, swearing is a sin, failing to praise God is a sin, drugs are a sin, etc, etc, etc. Sins abound in the Bible Belt, and the cultural discontinuity between progressive denominations such as the Episcopalians is less doctrine than that the progressive denominations seem weirdly unworried about the sin thing.)

Thus one can see why the country as a whole is in favor of giving more civil recognition to homosexuals. However, if cases such as Dixon and Christofferson (see No Oil For Pacifists' summary posts for the background) become more common, I think the case of the various groups campaigning against further legal recognition for homosexuals will be greatly strengthened.

There is something immoral about driving someone from a job not because of actions taken to directly harm individuals, but because you disagree with that individual's political positions. Employment is part of the basic fabric of life, and the same complex of attitudes that cause Americans to oppose discrimination against gays will probably cause them to oppose this type of discrimination.

Carl thinks Dixon will lose her case. His explanation of why and summary is Carlian in its coverage, and I strongly recommend reading it. However, if she does, the fact will remain that by writing to a newspaper to question one of its articles and to respond to a question in that article she will have lost her job.

In the interest of further debate, which I would suggest should be conducted over at Carl's because he has more of an insight into the legal aspects of the issue, I reprint the original article by Michael Miller, and then Crystal Dixon's response to it:
One of the great blessings of my life is the consistent, long-term presence of many friends. There are three very important people who have been in my life since first or second grade. More than a dearth of blood relatives makes those people my family; we have shared 30 years of ups and downs on the dizzying carousel ride of life.

Two of those people, and my closest blood relative, are gay.

I have been tangentially immersed in the gay culture for so long, it’s a natural and common aspect of life. Three decades of loving these friends and family and sharing their successes in managing careers and raising families has jaded me to the hatred and prejudice many people harbor against the gay community. It’s easy for me to let my guard down and take gay culture for granted. As a middle-aged, overweight white guy with graying facial hair, I am America’s ruling demographic, so the gay rights struggle is something I experience secondhand, like my black friends’ struggles and my wheelchair-bound friend’s struggles.

In the interest of full disclosure, at least three women I dated in college subsequently declared themselves gay, so I’ve directly contributed to the community’s growth.

Because I have such intense love and respect for the people in my life who are gay, it never makes sense to me when I hear someone preaching anti-gay rights propaganda. I can never understand why they care.

It’s basic Golden Rule territory: don’t judge people for the color of their skin or their physical challenges, and don’t judge them for their sexuality. I know that is a simplified and naïve statement, but for me, the issue really is that simple. There are people who are so strongly anti-gay rights, they lust for legislation to limit the gay community’s freedoms. That makes no intellectual or moral sense to me. Some of this prejudice is based in religion. I find it confusing that people who believe in a savior who opens his arms to everyone think he’ll draw those same arms shut to keep gay people away.

And do not tell me you are “tolerant” or “tolerate” gay people. Stop for a moment and think about how condescending and evil that attitude is.

Every month, some anonymous reader sends me a packet of articles photocopied from newspapers. These articles are about gay rights, marked up with a red pen that bleeds exclamation points with scrawls of “HIV” and “AIDS Doom” all over them. I recognize the envelope now, and it lands, unopened, in the trash.

On March 26, I moderated a town hall meeting sponsored by Equality Ohio and Equality Toledo. The meeting, “A Level Playing Field,” dealt with issues of employment discrimination against gay people. It was lightly attended, but the attendees, including a couple who drove from Youngstown, were clearly invested in the issue. The panelists were Michelle Stecker, attorney and interim executive director of Equality Toledo; Kim Welter, program manager for education and outreach for Equality Ohio; and Rob Salem, a clinical professor of law at the UT College of Law.

There were many interesting discussions, and I learned a lot about Ohio’s gay rights laws, or lack thereof. I left the forum with a vague sadness — sadness that there is so much needless public struggle and strife based on something as private as sexuality, and sadness that I have been ignorant to the struggles some of my closest friends endure.

One message that came through was how far behind Ohio is in gay rights. A single gay Ohioan may adopt a child, but a gay Ohio couple cannot. A gay couple may raise a child, but if something happens to the biological parent or primary caregiver, the partner may find him or her self without legal access to the child.

The frequent denial of health care benefits leads to horror stories. According to the panelists, UT has offered domestic partner benefits since then-president Dan Johnson signed them into effect. The Medical University of Ohio did not offer those benefits. When the institutions merged, UT employees retained the domestic-partner benefits, but MUO employees were not offered them. So, people working for the same employer do not have access to the same benefits. According to the panel, it may be 18 months before the situation is addressed. Eighteen months is a very long time to live (and work at a medical facility) without health benefits.

Ohio’s policies have a direct impact on economic development. The panelists have specific examples of companies who will not consider locating in Ohio because they have gay employees who would lose benefits.

There have been studies that show how much states benefit economically from offering equal rights, and how much money is left on the table by states that put prejudice before profit. It would be in the best interest of the local Meta-Plan groups to host a presentation by Equality Ohio to learn just how great our competitive disadvantage is.

It’s a sad irony that I embrace so many gay people without fully understanding their challenges; as the people who know me best could tell you, I’m on a very long learning curve. But I’m willing to learn.
Dixon's response:
I read with great interest Michael Miller’s April 6 column, "Gay Rights and Wrongs."

I respectfully submit a different perspective for Miller and Toledo Free Press readers to consider.

First, human beings, regardless of their choices in life, are of ultimate value to God and should be viewed the same by others. At the same time, one’s personal choices lead to outcomes either positive or negative.

As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo’s Graduate School, an employee and business owner, I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are "civil rights victims." Here’s why. I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended. Daily, thousands of homosexuals make a life decision to leave the gay lifestyle evidenced by the growing population of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex Gays) and Exodus International just to name a few. Frequently, the individuals report that the impetus to their change of heart and lifestyle was a transformative experience with God; a realization that their choice of same-sex practices wreaked havoc in their psychological and physical lives. Charlene E. Cothran, publisher of Venus Magazine, was an aggressive, strategic supporter of gay rights and a practicing lesbian for 29 years, before she renounced her sexuality and gave Jesus Christ stewardship of her life. The gay community vilified her angrily and withdrew financial support from her magazine, upon her announcement that she was leaving the lesbian lifestyle. Rev. Carla Thomas Royster, a highly respected New Jersey educator and founder and pastor of Blessed Redeemer Church in Burlington, NJ, married to husband Mark with two sons, bravely exposed her previous life as a lesbian in a tell-all book. When asked why she wrote the book, she responded "to set people free… I finally obeyed God."

Economic data is irrefutable: The normative statistics for a homosexual in the USA include a Bachelor’s degree: For gay men, the median household income is $83,000/yr. (Gay singles $62,000; gay couples living together $130,000), almost 80% above the median U.S. household income of $46,326, per census data. For lesbians, the median household income is $80,000/yr. (Lesbian singles $52,000; Lesbian couples living together $96,000); 36% of lesbians reported household incomes in excess of $100,000/yr. Compare that to the median income of the non-college educated Black male of $30,539. The data speaks for itself.

The reference to the alleged benefits disparity at the University of Toledo was rather misleading. When the University of Toledo and former Medical University of Ohio merged, both entities had multiple contracts for different benefit plans at substantially different employee cost sharing levels. To suggest that homosexual employees on one campus are being denied benefits avoids the fact that ALL employees across the two campuses regardless of their sexual orientation, have different benefit plans. The university is working diligently to address this issue in a reasonable and cost-efficient manner, for all employees, not just one segment.

My final and most important point. There is a divine order. God created human kind male and female (Genesis 1:27). God created humans with an inalienable right to choose. There are consequences for each of our choices, including those who violate God’s divine order. It is base human nature to revolt and become indignant when the world or even God Himself, disagrees with our choice that violates His divine order. Jesus Christ loves the sinner but hates the sin (John 8:1-11.) Daily, Jesus Christ is radically transforming the lives of both straight and gay folks and bringing them into a life of wholeness: spiritually, psychologically, physically and even economically. That is the ultimate right.

Crystal Dixon lives in Maumee.
There was a question about the religious ground for "judging" sexuality in the original article. Obviously Dixon's viewpoints as expressed are deeply offensive to many homosexuals. Traditional Christian teachings as to sexuality are deeply offensive to many homosexuals. The idea that people can switch orientations through therapy or conversion is deeply offensive to many homosexuals, although it apparently is true. I have personally known persons who switched orientations both ways as well as unambiguous bisexuals, so whatever the reason for homosexual attraction in humans, it appears to be malleable in some cases.

GayPatriotWest disagreed with Dixon, but asked this question:
And where are those who push for non-discrimination laws which would prevent private-sector employers from discriminating against gays in the case of this example of the public sector discriminating against a woman because of her political and social views?
I am personally troubled by the implications just as GayPatriotWes is. I don't favor job discrimination, because it appears immoral to me to block someone from exercising the basic functions of life based on your opinion of their private life. It's at least as immoral to discriminate against someone because of a religious affiliation or view.

Must the broad mass of Americans be forced to chose between extremes? Isn't basic civil tolerance getting lost here? Don't such cases tend to support the arguments of those who claim that it is necessary for Christians to oppose further legal endorsements of gay civil rights because such laws will be used to deny others their rights?

A note on equal job opportunities: There has been quite a bit of discussion in some areas and in some circles about churches being forced to hire homosexuals for their offices. How a person answers may depend on how much they have been witness to these discussions. So even some of the 11% who seem to say there should be some discrimination may not feel that homosexuals should be unable to get a job. Instead, they may be thinking of specific instances where they think a religious organization or other institution may be justified in limiting hiring in that respect.
Thanks, Dana. I didn't think of that, and it probably explains the discrepancy. Yes, I wouldn't say a church has to hire someone who disputes a fundamental part of their religion if it pertains to the job.

What bothers me so much about the Dixon case is that her religious opinions, according to anything I have read, did not come into her job. That was never the allegation. Her expression of her beliefs in an independent forum were perceived by her employer to disqualify her.

Of course in private employment there are no protections at all. Dixon was a government employee, and so had maximum protection under law from this sort of thing.
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