Sexual orientation laws backed by substantial penalties, not to mention potential for publicly shaming violators, require some form of objective clarity.
What does it actually mean when we refer to one’s “sexual orientation” or “gender identity”? The answers seem obvious—that is, until we actually have to land on an answer. This question takes on great importance when it involves consequential public policies, such as the one Houston and many other jurisdictions currently face.
Recall that, in 2014, Houston Mayor Annise Parker passed the smoothly titled Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) through her city council to much fanfare, then proceeded to demand her city’s pastors dutifully submit “all speeches, presentations or sermons” related to HERO to her for approval.
The Texas Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the council must either repeal the ordinance or put it up for a vote by Houston’s citizens. That vote will be November 3. The only language in Proposition 1 under debate is its inclusion of the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” Contrary to elite assumptions, compelling reasons do exist for rejecting the ordinance beyond those mouth-breathers’ refusal to join the “right side of history” and all that.
A major reason is that the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” are terribly subjective. They mean very different things to reasonable people, and find no common definition even within the LGBT community. Consequential public policy demands more precision. If we don’t know what these terms mean, nobody can know if he is violating the law or not until hauled into court, and even then various judges are likely to disagree.
So, what does “sexual orientation” actually include and exclude? How is one’s “gender identity” determined and legally ascertained? Neither of these are objective, measurable personal characteristics like race, sex, color, ethnicity, pregnancy, disability, etc., but they are assumed as such in laws like this. Great trouble arises when we assume we are all talking about the same thing here but in fact are not. Let’s see how this is precisely case we have today.
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