Breck should reconsider "sexual orientation" statement
The Breckenridge Town Council will soon consider a second reading of its ordinance to add “sexual orientation” to its equal opportunity statement.I believe an examination of the facts should lead the town to leave its current statement alone. Civil rights protections are not granted to every person, group or minority but only to special protected minorities. The courts have clearly ruled that special civil rights protections are reserved for truly disadvantaged, politically powerless and obviously distinct minorities. In numerous court rulings, criteria for true minority status deserving civil rights protection have been established when groups in question have suffered a history of social oppression and possess immutable or distinguishing characteristics, like race, color, gender or national origin, which define them as a discrete group.While the wording of the ordinance uses the term “sexual orientation,” it is clear that the minority in question is the homosexual community representing gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered (GLBT). Homosexuals, as a class, are not victims of widespread oppression or discrimination as defined by the court. While homosexuals have experienced hate crimes based on their sexual orientation, such activity is still a federal crime and morally reprehensible.However, seeking to remedy that by effecting workplace discrimination rules and creating a special protected class is wrong. Courts have defined social oppression by economic, educational or cultural hardships, such as those experienced by African-Americans.Do the facts bear out that homosexuals, as a class, can be described as damaged in any of these categories? A recent study put gay spending power at $485 billion. Homosexual couples enjoy an average income of $72,122 in 2003 versus the 2003 median family income of $52,273. Forty-five percent of gays and lesbians are employed in professional or managerial positions versus 16 percent in U.S. population as a whole, and only 4 percent are unemployed, well below the national average. These facts can hardly be representative of an economically oppressed minority. In educational attainment, homosexuals lead the nation in almost every category. Gays and lesbians with bachelor’s degrees are 24.7 percent, compared to 18 percent of the whole nation. In terms of cultural advantages, homosexuals cannot complain of discrimination.A full two-thirds of same-sex couples own their homes. In 1987, while only 14 percent of Americans had traveled overseas, 65.8 percent of homosexuals had done so. With higher disposable incomes and fewer households with children, homosexuals can and do avail themselves of a variety of cultural benefits and are seen and heard from regularly in the media. Homosexuality does not have obvious or readily identifiable characteristics. In the homosexual community, there is pressure for high-profiled individuals who have kept their homosexuality secret, to come out of the closet.If identifying them were so obvious, no pressure would be necessary. As to the immutability of homosexuality, there is a great and unearned emphasis in conventional wisdom and the media that sexual orientation is only genetic, despite the lack of scientific evidence. Most informed persons believe that an individual’s sexuality comes from the combined forces of genetics and circumstances: both nature and nurture. As well, thousands of men and women have changed their sexual orientation and are leading fulfilling heterosexual lives. Some have married partners of the opposite sex and have families.The Human Rights Coalition and the Gay and Lesbian Taskforce are just two of the many national and local organizations promoting GLBT causes in government. Homosexuals are found active in politics on every level in the U.S.A., and many hold public office. The homosexual community’s connection to the media and the arts ensures it has an unfettered public voice. So, why not? Ultimately, this is not about workplace discrimination but rather advancing the political aims of a vocal and powerful minority. The town of Breckenridge should avoid such controversies and steer clear of being used for other’s political ends. As a physician, I have cared for many gay and lesbian patients over the years. I have enjoyed being their physician, and I have always treated them with dignity and respect.It is not helpful, however, when courteous civil dissent is described as hate speech. In fact, at times it seems to me that there is more social oppression for those outside the spheres of political correctness. I would encourage all who would like to engage the town council on this matter in a courteous, civil manner when the second reading is posted on a meeting agenda.
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