November 14, 2013 by Anders Ingemarson
If you’re up on the latest movie releases you may think the title of this post a case of bad spelling, a futile attempt to brush up on my Ebonics skills, or a promise (or threat) of a movie review. Alas, neither is the case but keep on reading.
ENDA stands for Employment Non-Discrimination Act and you may be forgiven for not having heard about it; I hadn’t myself until last week when I read a report about it being reintroduced in Congress. It’s a piece of proposed federal legislation that would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by civilian, nonreligious employers with at least 15 employees. It has been introduced in varying shapes and forms in every Congress but one since 1994, so far without passing but garnering some degree of bipartisan support each time in both houses.
ENDA is legislation in the tradition of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, attempting to prohibit discrimination of a group of people based on some characteristic—race, disability, language, nationality, religion, sex, age, etc. Others include the Fair Housing Act (1968), Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978), Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), and miscellaneous pieces of federal Affirmative Action legislation.
However, anti-discrimination legislation, claiming to protect the alleged “rights” of some group or another, almost always violates the individual rights of others.
For example, forcing banks to relax lending standards so that members of certain minorities can afford to buy a house is violating the rights of banks and other lending institutions. Owning a house is not a right, but refusing someone a loan is.
Legislating a certain number of parking spots for the disabled in front of your local supermarket violates the rights of the supermarket chain to use the parking lot according to its judgment of what best benefits business. We may empathize with disabled car drivers and petition the supermarket chain to increase the number of dedicated spots, but we don’t have the right to force our view on it through legislation.
Outlawing racial segregation in restaurants violates the rights of the restaurant owner to decide whom to serve and not, which includes the right to serve customers based on racial preference. It’s immoral, irrational and bad business practice, but the restaurant owner has the right to set the rules on his property as he sees fit.
And if you don’t want to hire GLBT men and women in your business, for whatever reason—religious persuasion, you simply don’t like them, or you find them irresistible and therefore a distraction in the workplace—that is your right. I may disagree with you, I may try to persuade you to change your mind, but I may not violate your rights by telling my elected officials to make my view the law of the land.
The proponents of ENDA and other anti-discrimination legislation proposals take advantage of the confusion that exists around individual rights. In their advocacy for their minority group of choice, they have seized the moral high ground. We have to reclaim the moral high ground for the individual. We have to champion the fact that any alleged “right” of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right. In Ayn Rand’s words “The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights, cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.”
Let’s end ENDA’s game. Claiming that a group has “rights” beyond the individual rights of its members is pure science fiction.