It concerns sexual orientation, gender identity and “discrimination.”
On Tuesday, citizens of Houston, Texas, will go to the polls to vote on a controversial “sexual orientation and gender identity” (dubbed SOGI) measure.
Rather than protecting equality before the law, the SOGI ordinance, euphemistically named the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), creates special legal protections based on “sexual orientation and gender identity.”
HERO, like all sexual orientation and gender identity laws, is bad public policy.
HERO does not clearly define what actions count as “discrimination” on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Indeed, HERO leaves entirely unclear what actions could be accused of being discriminatory.
As a result, HERO would impose new, and potentially ruinous liability on innocent citizens for alleged “discrimination” based not on objective traits, but on subjective and unverifiable identities. HERO would further increase government interference in markets, potentially discouraging economic growth and job creation.
And, as to issues surrounding “gender identity” and “transgender” teachers, students and employees, HERO could require education and employment policies concerning schoolhouse, locker room, and workplace conditions that undermine common sense.
But the damage of HERO is not only economic. It also threatens the freedom of citizens, individually and in associations, to affirm their religious or moral convictions—convictions such as that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and that maleness and femaleness are objectively rooted in biology, and should be valued and affirmed, not rejected or altered.
Under HERO, acting reasonably on these beliefs could be made illegal. After all, HERO is modelled on other SOGI laws that have been used to penalize bakers, florists, photographers, schools, and adoption agencies.
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