On June 5, the Human Rights Campaign sent an automated voice message asking us to call our New York state senator so they would vote to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which is up for vote in the state legislature. The bill has received wide approval: Both of the state's U.S. senators, many powerful unions, and the New York State Assembly, which has approved the bill six times already, all support it.
Not passing GENDA is “saying that it is okay to discriminate, and any legal discrimination is a cancer on the state”, said New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who also said that the Big Apple has had a similar law for over a decade. Many council members have added their voices to Speaker Quinn's.
She does have a point: legal discrimination is a cancer. For too long, it plagued the “land of the free” by creating many groups of second-class citizens. Just think about the Jim Crow laws: Right after slavery and the Black Codes were abolished, many states enacted laws that legally separated whites from everyone else (mainly blacks). They regulated almost every aspect of life, including private businesses, in ways that can only be compared to apartheid South Africa towards blacks or Nazi Germany towards Jews.
However, GENDA is not only meant to regulate public businesses, it is also meant to forbid discrimination in private businesses, and I strongly object to that. Don't get me wrong: I stand against every form of discrimination, which is solely based on irrationality and fear. As a minority myself, I know all about the ups and downs of not being in the majority group.
But imposing this equality is very likely to backlash, as it often happens with government regulation meant to “do good.” For example:
-Obamacare, meant to get everyone affordable health insurance, is making many employers cut back on hours so they won't have to pay the tremendous costs of providing health insurance.
-The various government agencies (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, HUD) and laws (Equal Credit Opportunity, CRA) meant to increase homeownership and help minorities get a house created the housing bubble that burst in 2008.
-The Lilly Ledbetter Act, meant to give women “equal pay for equal work,” is not only based on faulty statistics but is also likely to decrease women's participation rate (working or looking for a job) because employers will fear lawsuits.
In order words, government should only concentrate on making sure there are no laws discriminating any citizen. Once it's done and every citizen is equal before the law, only time can change mentalities. Trying to force anything on private people (like GENDA is trying to do) can only lead to backlashes on the people it was trying to “help.”