Senate Republicans Introduce Religious ‘License to Discriminate’ Bill December 15, 2013

Senate Republicans Introduce Religious ‘License to Discriminate’ Bill

What do you do when someone asks you to treat everybody equally? If you’re a kindergartner, you accept and graciously share your crayons. If you’re a Senate Republican, you throw a tantrum and create a legislative loophole.

This week, 11 Senate Republicans introduced a bill called the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which would prohibit federal agencies from taking away the tax-exempt status of churches and religious groups in spite of any discriminatory practices they may employ. The bill seems tailored to fight the impending “threat” of marriage equality, according to bill author Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), but it opens the door to allowing any kind of discrimination — as long as that discrimination can be backed up by “religious beliefs.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

“What I would like to do is make sure that we go out of our way to protect churches from adverse action that could be taken against them as a result of their doctrinal views of the definition of marriage,” the Utah senator said.

The bill appears to be blatantly sidestepping the post-DOMA-repeal policy that requires federal recognition of legally married same-sex couples. According to Zack Ford at ThinkProgress, the bill could provide an easy path for religious businesses, government officials, or even hospitals to deny services to same-sex couples.

It’s also endorsed by both the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. According to Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore:

We are witnessing a growing climate of intolerance against individuals and organizations who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, with a ‘comply or else’ attitude being advanced by those who favor marriage redefinition in law. In this coercive climate, the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act is an important step in preserving religious liberties at the federal level.”

Again, these churches are under the impression that someone is trying to take away their rights due to a simple difference of opinion when the truth is that’s what they’ve been doing to us. (Do I really need to spell out the definition of intolerance again?)

Sen. Lee also said:

“Nearly every member of Congress on both ends of the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle, will at least purport to be a strong supporter of religious liberty, and this should be an uncontroversial position to take,” he said. “I don’t think anyone believes that the federal government ought to be making religious doctrinal decisions on behalf of churches and other religious institutions.”

Here’s the thing, though: the federal government is not making religious doctrinal decisions on anyone’s behalf, because that’s not its job. Equal marriage laws across the country make specific exemptions protecting churches, so much so that there is already a level of what’s essentially legal discrimination that only religious groups can access. As The Advocate points out:

The threat to which Lee refers to isn’t just “potential” at this point in time, it’s entirely hypothetical. President Obama has promised to respect the rights of churches and religious-based nonprofits to deny service or refuse to recognize marriages that go against their religious doctrine. Every state that has enacted marriage equality legislation has done so with strong religious exemptions protecting the rights of faith-based institutions to do the same. And the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution features a fundamental and oft-reaffirmed protection of religious liberty in its restriction that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Here’s the full list of Senate co-sponsors, including one or two who have been tapped as potential 2016 presidential contenders:

The Senate legislation is cosponsored by fellow Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana, Marco Rubio of Florida, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Roy Blunt of Missouri, James Rische of Idaho, Tad Cochran of Mississippi, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, and Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives in September by a bipartisan group of Congresspeople, reports ThinkProgress.

I highly doubt a measure like this will pass, considering the vast quantity of protections already in place when it comes to religious groups, but it’s frightening that our elected officials find such a law to be necessary. This is one of many problems with the concept of a “religious exemption” to equal rights — it’s not actually equality if not everyone is following it.


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  • $925105

    Essentially their saying that it’s a part of the Christian religion to be bigots and persecute others. Yeah, we already knew that but America is a secular nation. If you want to enjoy persecuting others in the name of religion Afghanistan has plenty of real estate available.

  • Red-Star

    Why can’t we just get tax-exempt charities and leave it at that? The Churches don’t need tax breaks. If they want to have something like that and have the church building pay taxes like everyone else. Nothing to do with policy, shouldn’t that have just been the way it always was?

  • WallofSleep

    “We are witnessing a growing climate of intolerance against
    individuals and organizations who believe that marriage is the union of
    one man and one woman…”

    Show me one goddamned state, just one, that has outlawed heterosexual marriage. Until then? Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

  • Achron Timeless

    They already passed this on the state level in Kentucky. http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/13rs/HB279.htm

  • Achron Timeless

    Agreed, but the assumption of those laws was that churches are automatically doing charitable work and weren’t in it for the money, so they just gave them blanket tax exemption. Obviously, this isn’t true, so those laws need to go away.

  • LesterBallard

    “We are witnessing a growing climate of intolerance against individuals and organizations who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman”

    I don’t care what you believe, you fucking asswipe, I only care about you trying to put your beliefs into practice, trying to make others live by your beliefs. Because that is what you want. Well, those days are slowly, for sure, but still, coming to an end. Deal with it, or get the fuck out.

  • WallofSleep

    “… the assumption of those laws was that churches are automatically doing charitable work and weren’t in it for the money… Obviously, this isn’t true…”

    Nor has it ever been. St. Reagan (pbuh) once said “It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.”

    He was only barely right. Politics is the third oldest, with the profession of clergy being the second. Where he was also wrong was in the comparison to the first oldest profession, prostitution. Though the three may have striking resemblances to the casual observer, there is one very distinct, glaring difference that sets the oldest profession apart from the other two: it’s a far more honest one.

  • koseighty

    Religion was the first, and continues to be the largest, form of politics.

    The founding fathers recognized this and and separated our representative democracy from the established (and future) religiopolitical organizations.

  • HyperKangaroo

    WAIT WOULD THIS LAW ALSO PROTECT “RELIGIOUS” BELIEFS THAT WOULD PROTECT CHURCHES/OFFICIALS THAT REFUSE TO PERFORM HETEROSEXUAL MARRIAGE CEREMONIES? I wonder how fast this act will be repealed when it is used against the people who introduced the law in the first place…

  • diogeneslamp0

    Why is it that as soon as that photo with the smile appeared on the page, I knew it was a conservative religious Republican asshole obsessing on hate? Was it the smile? The hair?

    The hair! He needs a gay man to give him a decent haircut.

  • zeek_n_destroy

    “We are witnessing a growing climate of intolerance against
    individuals and organizations who believe that marriage is the union of
    one man and one woman”

    Maybe that’s because it’s an archaic and outdated concept based on an anthology of 2000 year old fairy tales with absolutely ZERO basis in a 21st century reality, you fucking nimrod!

  • The Captain

    All right I’m getting really, really sick of these “exemption” laws. We really need someone to challenge this shit in court. Or if anyone with more legal knowledge who knows if it has been ruled on an explanation would be great. But it seems that anytime you pass a law that exempts a specific religious belief from another law you are in fact establishing a state religion and thus a huge violation of the first amendment.

  • Christopher Griswold

    This is a fantastic law. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but it gives any group that is recognized as a religion to define marriage in their own way. I would pay good money to be in the court room the first time this is used in a polygamy case, or a pedophilia case, or an interspecies marriage case. I imagine the politicians’ responses will be much the same as when The Satanic Temple proposed a monument at the Oklahoma capitol building.

  • observer

    Maybe a letter to the poor “persecuted” Christians as well: Whenever you do shit like this, especially when you actually have the political power to do so, it’s hard to take you seriously as the most oppressed people in the country.

  • OhioAtheist

    There is NO justification for discrimination, religious or otherwise.

  • OhioAtheist

    Another not-so-thinly-veiled argument of special rights for the religious.

  • Once again the republicans are dog whistling through the graveyard.

  • John Gills

    Although as a reverent agnostic, I could not, in good conscience, seek official recognition as a ‘religion’. However, I can see that The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster can qualify and so gain recognition for Pastafarian ceremonies that honor his noodly presence.

    Seriously, if http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071115140152AAQlanc

    “What criteria determine legal recognition of a religion” is accurate, we should see an explosion of ‘religions’ seeking exemption from things like property tax, et cetera.

    “Those criteria are:

    1. a distinct legal existence,

    2. a recognized creed and form of worship,

    3. a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government,

    4. a formal code of doctrine and discipline

    5. a distinct religious history,

    6. a membership not associated with any other church or denomination,

    7. an organization of ordained ministers,

    8. ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed studies,

    9. a literature of its own,

    10. established places of worship,

    11. regular congregations,

    12. regular religious services,

    13. schools for religious instruction of the young,”

    14. school for the preparation of its ministers.

  • Averant

    This is replacement text for a misread post. Please ignore.

  • Mikey

    I’m afraid that Mike Lee is one of the senators from my state of Utah. While neither of our senators is anything to brag about, Orrin Hatch is purely craven. He has a mind, but it rarely goes against the big money. Lee on the other hand has begun to become an embarrassment to Utahns all across the spectrum. Even the Mormon church is ahead of him on the issue of gay rights. It’s begun to dawn on us that the man simply isn’t very bright.

  • Wall asked for a state that outlawed hetero (1 man + 1 woman) marriage, none of which, including Texas, have.

  • busterggi

    If this gets through the next bill will make building &/or attending mosques illegal. Christofascists make me sick.

  • Averant

    My mistake. I misread the post. Deleted.

  • you know what i saw?

    ease. luxury. constant living in an environment where he never has to worry about getting a job, taking care of a child, paying a bill. he’s not exactly “fat” but he sure doesn’t look stressed about money, food and shelter to me.

    i know we have republicans and conservatives who at least skim this blog. you republican voters, i ask you: is your world so comfortable, your income so guaranteed, your confidence in your health and safety and retirement so assured, you don’t mind that your legislators are spending most of their time on this sort of issue? using YOUR taxdollars, as they do so? are there no poor, no homeless, no sick and needy among you? i guess your churches are taking care of all the people like that, in your (fantasy) world.

    look at this man. do a little research into where he comes from, and then compare his life, to yours. remember: you pay his salary. when he’s out of office, he’ll likely make millions or more, as a well connected lobbyist. hookers and blow and 6 houses and trips to Aspen and Europe… he will get this. and you?

    won’t get SS and Medicare when you’re old. will be drinking filthy water and eating poisoned food, cause guys like this voted against those things. meanwhile, a French chef will be serving meals at his parties in one of his mansions, which you paid for, but never get invited to come inside.

    wake up, little people. love jeebus all you want. understand: this guy, and his ilk, don’t. just as they don’t really care about you.

  • Stev84

    Senator David Vitter. For whom marriage is between his wife, his prostitute and his diaper.

  • Guest

    That was beautiful.

  • If they want to eliminate these rules, then they should advocate for eliminating all of them. A lot of libertarians and anarchists are against nondiscrimination rules. Of course that means that your atheist boss could fire you for being religious. Oh, that would suck if people could discriminate against you? I’m so sick of this bunch. People unwilling to employ empathy are unworthy of any for themselves. Let them get a taste of their own medicine and see how they like it.

  • this martyr complex has gotten old. There no intolerance against them. Just an unwillingness to allow them to be bigots. Are they really asking for tolerance for bigotry? Really? If I contemplate that long enough my brain is going to go all “Scanners” and explode.

  • I’d like to add something like that. I”m so fucking sick of Republican friends and relatives making excuses for the religious extremists that run their party now. Stop telling me you don’t agree with them, AND TELL THEM!

  • Jeff

    A bit raw on the edges, but otherwise, a beautiful post. Unfortunately, it will fall on deaf ears.

  • Jeff

    Excellent point. Maybe we should all be getting our “authorized religious person” paperwork, take our tax break, and begin marrying all kinds of people…or things. The only issue with this law is does it define the legal, civil, government sponsored marriage, or does it simply allow church’s do what they can already do now and not marry someone in the ceremony? I mean, you aren’t married by a church, no matter what they say. You are married with a license from the State.

  • Word.

  • i know we have republicans and conservatives who at least skim this blog. you republican voters, i ask you: is your world so comfortable, your income so guaranteed, your confidence in your health and safety and retirement so assured…

    You will not like the answer.

    I currently work a $9 an hour job, and together with my partner barely (often not-even-barely) scrape by on rent and bills.

    I am a conservative. (Not a Republican, though occasionally vote that way, but that would be a pointless digression into wherefores which would distract from the point at hand.)

    There are plenty of attitudes prevalent among conservatives that could be roundly criticized and easily mocked. And they are, by liberals, to great effect. My personal favorite is my fellow traveler’s tendency to deny that a problem exists when said problem doesn’t have an ideologically convenient solution. Drives me up a wall.

    But you know what is equally obnoxious? Liberal smug superiority. “Little people”? Fuck you. The tendency to believe that conservatives are benighted useful idiots, that we don’t know–couldn’t possibly know–our own interests. You can certainly drop that any time. It never occurs to you that we might just have different values, that those values are ill-served by (sometimes comic, but more usually tragic) liberal heedlessness when faced with the same problems that some conservatives deny. Liberals who propose vast and sweeping changes to deal with problems, uncaring about little teensy concerns like whether it would be reversible if it turns out to be an incredibly bad idea in practice. Or what is traded in terms of existing value to the new system that will replace it. Or whether that system will have the same flexibility to handle unintended consequences as the one it replaces.

    I am annoyed as anyone over the co-optation of the right by the religious (a historical anomaly in the US), but that is a poor enough excuse for liberals to smear conservatism for whatever else it happens to be. Seeing you conflate these effects with your assumptions about wealth and privilege just means that you can’t see individuals for individuals, and that is infinitely sadder than the academic question of whether any given person is the best little monkey for their own interests they can be.

    If you really want a constructive answer to your question, perhaps you should yank all the bullshit assumptions out of it and try again. (Perhaps start with the assumption that some asshole in Utah in any way represents conservatives overall.)

  • I think you may find that it’s the hearing ears who take the most exception to that steaming pile.

  • I think you need to yank the word “conservative” back from the reactionaries the Republicans have become. While I’m not a conservative, I can respect the ideas and ideals that form it. What you see from people like these fucks in the Senate is not classical conservatism, which (if I am correct) is more of what you espouse.

  • I try, in my piddling little way. Yes, my conservatism is perhaps best characterized as Burkean–a disposition, rather than an ideology–and I’m perhaps most frustrated with the liberal-conservative axis having come to be about what policy end one prefers, rather than what approach one prefers in achieving them.

    One of the most entertaining illustrations of the difference in approach I’ve found I saw in a comment over at the Volokh Conspiracy on zooming out from the debate over health care to the widest possible abstraction. It goes something like this:

    Liberals: Forty million uninsured! Forty million!
    Conservatives: Yeah, but I dunno. I mean, jeez, but what could we…no, I’m not comfortable with that either.
    Liberals: Nah, man, I got this. Here, hold my beer. Watch this.

    Apprehending a problem does not indicate how to solve it, and the largest problems bear the subtlest unintended consequences. On balance, I think it better to approach a problem of great magnitude carefully, and change large structures incrementally, mainly because with the biggest structural changes one can’t simply decide to unwind it if it turns out to be a tremendous blunder. (As opposed to modern GOPers, who in the above in the place of “conservative” would simply be screaming “NYAH NYAH [raspberry] I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”)

  • LOL

  • midnight rambler

    It’s sad indeed when Orrin Hatch starts to appear the somewhat sane one in the room (not in this case, but in some other issues).

  • Wildcard

    By approaching problems carefully you run the risk of not being able to get to people in time. By not dealing with poverty we can effectively doom generations to more poverty. Which won’t happen if those with more to give give more.

    Sometimes it helps to take a lot of time to know how to solve a problem. Sometimes you can’t take too much time or it will lead to disaster. It is hard to know one from the other sometimes.

  • midnight rambler

    Could you possibly come up with a worse strawman for the health insurance issue?

  • I don’t mean taking time, exactly, just taking care. The tendency to try to shoot the moon, find the silver bullet that will solve the problem in one fell swoop, I think is the attitude that poisons a great deal of the policy end of the political discourse.

    Take health care, for example. We already had a great model for single-payer-lite health care with Medicare/Medicaid/S-Chip. So, instead of looking for ways to incrementally expand those programs till they covered the uncovered–which clustered disproportionately around the cut-off ages/income levels for those programs; i.e. the nearly destitute, the sort-of young, and the almost old–they decided to kick over the whole chessboard. (Why? Because it was the only way to maintain the viability of private insurance companies; talk about fucked up priorities.) Some of the blame for that can easily be laid at the feet of intransigent, uninterested Republicans, certainly. But the rest can easily be pinned upon Democrats who wanted something flashy that they could take credit for, a program all their own.

    ETA: They ended up making a lot of unfillable promises about what the new system would and would not deliver precisely because it changed so much the outcome became impossible to predict.

    Another way of thinking about “taking care” is being observant of other approaches that others have taken to address the same problem. There are many different approaches, worldwide, for government guarantees of health care, and many of them have existed for a long time, the benefits and pitfalls of each being well-studied; we decided to follow or borrow or learn from pretty much none of them, and instead tried to analogize from a system one-fiftieth of the size that operated within one state.

  • That’s great, but people need help now. There isn’t time to take your time about it.

  • It’s not about taking time. There will always be exigency; there’s always more that could be done NOW. The difficult, extremely unpleasant task is figuring out whether acting heedlessly is worth it in the long run. Let’s say we help everyone NOW using a structure that is unstable and is fated to collapse due to bad design. So, TOMORROW, more people end up needing more help than the number and amount who need it NOW.

    That doesn’t strike me as a good approach. Imagine if Obama and Congress had jumped into taking sides in the Syrian Civil War, on the ground that thousands of people were dying each month, and only later realizing that one side was a brutal dictator and the other side ended up being psychotic Islamists (something which wasn’t immediately obvious). Lots of people, on humanitarian grounds, bitterly criticized their (particularly his) reticence to jump in right away, and yet it turned out that not bending to the immediacy of the problem was the better course.

    Now, I will absolutely agree that some use prudence as an excuse to defer action or consideration entirely. And that’s wrong, exactly what I was talking about re: the tendency of conservatives to ignore difficult or inconvenient problems. But due consideration is an attitude and a process, not a specific length of time. It just takes people stopping and thinking, rather than going for the most obvious or first solution that presents. Is there a less disruptive way to achieve the same ends? It’s probably on those grounds alone a better one than one that makes sweeping changes. Very occasionally, immediate drastic action is the best choice, but those situations are rare and don’t take on the general character of policy disagreement.

  • UWIR

    If I were a doctor, I’d be tempted to say “Catholic doctors can refuse to treat people based on the ‘dictates of their conscience’? Well, my conscience dictates that I not treat Catholic patients.”

  • UWIR

    There are several different types of tax exemptions. There’s “People who give you money can deduct that money from their income”, there’s “You don’t have to pay income tax on the money people give you” and there’s also “You don’t have to pay property tax on the land you own”. The first two, make sense on the basis of churches allegedly engaging in charitable work. The third, not so much, and AFAIK, other charitable organizations down get that exemption.

  • That’s why I respect the Burkean approach. But I do not share it, because incremental steps just don’t help people fast enough (as wmdkitty pointed out). You also get mired in tradition- we do it because it’s always been done this way, never mind that the reasons for doing it like that have changed. I have no respect for tradition for tradition’s sake- if a tradition is doing bad stuff that outweighs the good stuff, chuck it. Sometimes the status quo is so bad you need to toss it out and start over.

    That doesn’t mean not understanding a problem, nor does it mean rushing with the first solution that springs to mind. It does mean taking the time to test solutions (sometimes multiple solution to see which one(s) work best) at a small scale, but it also means ramping the successful ones up to a national or state-wide scale after the testing is over, instead of letting promising ideas die for lack of funding or apathy or both.

    In the specific case of health care, I agree that an expansion of the successful single-payer programs we have would have been ideal. I was disappointed that was taken off the table so quickly. But do you really think we could have had coverage available for everyone in the two to four years the PPACA is going to take to get fully ramped up? I don’t. The Republicans never would have stood for it. I think you misread the Democrats entirely- they wanted to get something passed, and so they had to raid conservative/reactionary/Republican ideas (on health care, at least, that means inferior ideas) to get anything at all passed.

  • DT

    This country was founded on freedom of religion–free to practice your religion without interference from the government.

    I believe a church has a faith based right to deny to perform a marriage ceremony to a couple that the church feels is not entitled to marriage. (The government does not have this right).

    It seems to me there is no need to introduce a bill that is already covered by law.

    Taxes is a whole new ball game. I see no reason why churches are tax-free to begin with.

    Lets put this in the law. Churches can preach any doctrine they want. But the minute they make one statement regarding any influence on anything secular–influencing their members to vote, boycott, picket–ANYTHING–they automatically lose their tax-free status.

    Businesses are NOT individuals and have no religious rights.

    We’ve spent about the last hundred years spelling out what classifies as a civil right and now that this country is making progress, representatives want to take it all away by defining a businesses’ discrimination as religious?

    NO!

    I’ve done something most Christians never do–read the bible.

    It’s full of discriminatory practices. Name a group and they’re in the bible being persecuted–unless they are heterosexual men of a specific race pleasing to god.

    One step forward, two steps back?

  • Jennifer

    You know, the more I think about it, the more I am okay with the idea of a religious exemption to equality.

    I think there should be a program that churches, businesses and individuals can opt into if they would prefer not to serve gays (or Jews, or whatever). They’d pay a yearly fee to be a part the program (the money, after administrative costs would help fund a public school of their choice), and for their money they would get a sign to display prominently that says, “we hate! It’s our religion!” If a business did not have the sign, they would be legally obligated to serve, regardless of race, religion or orientation.

    Everybody wins. They get “religious freedom,” and every ethical person knows immediately not to shop there.

  • Jen

    Thank you for this. Caricaturized quote aside, as a former conservative turned liberal, it is nice to hear a rational argument made by a conservative. Voices like yours need to be heard, because the crazy conservatives often seem to be only ones out there. I may not agree, but you gave me a way to seriously consider your point of view.

  • keddaw

    “President Obama has promised…”

    Forgive me for not taking anything that lying tyrant says too seriously.

  • Anymouse

    Or that you only treat TRUE Catholic patients. 😉

  • Anymouse

    That’s an overly broad statement. For example, we discriminate against people who don’t have medical training, when seeking medical care. I discriminate against men when I seek a girlfriend. We validly discriminate with trivial justification all the time.

  • ZeldasCrown

    Is it not part of separation of church and state that a church can preform whichever marriage ceremonies it wants to (which doesn’t necessarily mean these marriages are legally recognized if the couple didn’t fill out the appropriate paperwork)? Churches can decide they only want to marry couples who are both members or the church (or require that at least one of them be a member), or ask that they attend church marriage classes, or refuse to marry a couple they believe hasn’t been following church teachings (ex-living together before marriage, previously divorced, etc). If they can currently do all this now, why do they believe that somehow changing the gender of one member of the couple will nullify all this? The whole point to the marriage equality movement is that the government cannot discriminate in terms of handing out legal contracts, not to force churches into changing their doctrine/forcing straight people into gay marriages (which is what you’d think was happening based upon the reactions of some opponents to same-sex marriage).

    As far as trying to weasel around non-discrimination laws in terms of business, that’s a non-starter. If you’re offering your services to the public, then you must serve all of the public (well, of course if you’re selling something regulated like alcohol or guns or something, obviously the laws need to be followed). Maybe a business could find some members-only way around this (I don’t really know the specifics and laws surrounding businesses that run on a membership basis, like Sam’s Club or exclusive country clubs or whatever). Perhaps their tune would change once they realize this law could be used as a basis to refuse service to Christians (after all, there could be some Jewish or Muslim business owners who feel that their religion dictates they should only serve other Jewish or Muslim people-which, of course, I’m sure we’d never hear the end of it, despite the fact that their law allowed it; somehow it still wouldn’t be their fault). Anti-discrimination law protects everyone (and if there are certain groups you hate so much that it kills you inside to serve them, then perhaps you shouldn’t be a business owner). Maybe it’s hard to see that it is helping you when you are the majority, but believe me, if that ever changes in the future, you will very much wish those protections were still in place.

  • ZeldasCrown

    I would hardly call not allowing someone with no medical training to preform surgery or prescribe medication to be a trivial justification. They could kill someone. Not hiring a person who is under-qualified does not legally count as discrimination (it’s discrimination in the sense that someone has made a choice, but not discrimination in the sense that someone was unlawfully harmed).

    I think there’s two definitions of discrimination. One meaning to make a judgment based upon personal taste, and the other to use unjust or prejudiced reasoning to deny a person something. I’m certain OhioAtheist was referring to the latter. Neither or your examples fall into the latter category.

  • I have no respect for tradition for tradition’s sake- if a tradition is doing bad stuff that outweighs the good stuff, chuck it. Sometimes the status quo is so bad you need to toss it out and start over.

    I agree. My main source of reticence in this regard practically is, somewhat ironically analogous to social privilege, it is often very difficult to realize exactly what value is being added by something deeply entrenched in the social structure because it’s so integrated as to be invisible; it won’t be missed until it’s gone. So I’m leery of facial claims that the bad outweighs the good just based on obvious effects.

    I suspect that unobvious effects can be quite profound. Since it is only a suspicion, it’s a cause for precaution, not dispositive against the change as a whole. It becomes worth it to check whether it is an effect that can be handled prophylactically, or mitigated through process; else you’ll run into situations where a child (in the above linked example re: poly-marriage) is part of the poly-family and happens to be unlucky enough to have two parents/guardians who are anti-vaxxers and one who insists (s)he get vaccinated, and courts never reach the merits of the argument because the temptation is to resort to disposition by democracy. Courts and judges are a finite resource; a lateral consequence of the complications of poly-marriage is a sharp increase in the complexity of the cases being decided (as you yourself pointed out), but unless the resources of the court are increased, which is not a trivial undertaking–good judges don’t grow on trees–that effect will be practically relieved by courts looking to shortcut those complexities, which is the true consequence of introducing those complexities without systemic compensation for them.

    In contrast, one of the most irritating things about the “something” that Democrats needed to get passed (which sort of reminds me of old saw “do something, even if it’s wrong!”) is the promises that couldn’t get kept; the side-effects that were predicted by critics that were swept under the rug instead of addressed. First, promises that a mandate-and-penalty structure wouldn’t be necessary. (Whoops.) Then the promises that you’d get to keep your doctors (Err.) But probably the biggest whopper told, that premiums wouldn’t go up for the “vast majority”, goes to the heart of the problem. The particular heedlessness I’m accusing Democrats of (and why I don’t subscribe to the “just do something, anything” approach) is that in their rush to do something, they are being cavalier (and more than a little disingenuous) with the nasty heart of politics: that it is, in the end, about picking winners and losers.

    Every system with finite resources has winners and losers. The way those winners and losers are picked is what distinguishes one system from another. We’ve always rationed health-care, simply because health-care (doctors, nurses, medication, diagnostic tools, hospital beds, prophylactic education) is finite and any rational actor has a functionally infinite demand for consuming it; it is never strictly rational at any point not to consume as much health care as you can, though obviously IRL there are some practical limitations to this effect. The prior system, not to put too fine a point on it, rationed health care based on wealth; the raw ability to pay for heath care as an assortment of products offered through the market. Now, there are several philosophical and economic objections to this way of doing things, and most of them are brutally incisive; economically, health care distribution through the health insurance market resembles almost textbook market failure, because perverse incentives (and functionally infinite demand) put upward pressure on costs that do not increase efficiency of distributions; philosophically it edges uncomfortably close to a cultural commitment to value wealthy lives as inherently more valuable and worth preserving (and improving the quality of) than poorer ones.

    So they picked a new one. But then tried to tell everyone, in essence, that there would be no losers in the new distribution, which is either Polyanna to a scary extent (“…I got this! Here, hold my beer…”) or just a deception. If you add forty million new underwritten consumers of health care to the system by whatever means, it will obviously have an effect on them (and on a personal level, I’m happy about that particular effect, because I will be one of them; yay!) but will also have an effect on the folks who already had access to care, and part of that effect will be turning some of those people into the new health care losers, who will be able to consume much less health care than they formerly could. Some of them will die that would have continued living under the old distribution, but all the tears shed for those who were dying–the ones we need to save NOW!–under the last regime are suddenly dry for these new losers. Doctors and hospital beds don’t grow on trees either.

    But do you really think we could have had coverage available for everyone in the two to four years the PPACA is going to take to get fully ramped up? I don’t.

    Eventually, though, the piper is paid. I personally suspect that these effects are going to become more significant when the small business exchange is rolled out, which is why (again, I suspect) it keeps getting kicked down the road; the unintended consequences we were all assured would not transpire are amplified and multiplied in the that context, but this piece of the system is the piece without which the system will certainly collapse; on that everyone agrees.

    And it really bothers me since this attempt will amount to the first time in about a decade I will personally have access to health care in any significant amount (I have little patience for schadenfreude and less for blame); it shouldn’t be about who was right or wrong and who should take blame, it should be about how instead of doing something NOW we should do something RIGHT, even if it is more incremental than the shiny promise of a complete solution. If the only component of PPACA that could have been passed was the medicare/medicaid expansion, that would have been an unvarnished good that would have helped hundreds of thousands of the people that were the targets of the imperative to “fix this thing” in the first place; since the bill passed with no Republican support anyway, there is little and less excuse why Democrats couldn’t have done the thing that would have helped with little blowback and none of the systemic uncertainty. Then the resource problems could be addressed in tandem; hundreds of thousands of new patients means, hey, we need to expand subsidies for medical education (as doctors take a while to mature on the vine; it’s not an instant effect) or hey, we need more hospitals (takes time to build them, too).

    Which, incidentally, would have had the added effect of not using up all of Obama’s political capital that could have been effectively spent elsewhere (like, say, reproductive rights; my rather more-liberal-than-me partner is quite furious that he “blew his load” on health care and so laterally sold women down the river on abortion and contraceptive care; no Freedom of Choice Act because–hey, a theme–political influence is an exhaustible resource that needs to be rationed and spent proportionately to the policy outcomes expected), instead of consuming like a black hole his entire first–and worrisome signs point to his entire second–term in consequence.

  • I may not agree, but you gave me a way to seriously consider your point of view.

    That’s all I ever hope for. 🙂

  • But discrimination isn’t always so easily divided into those two categories. Many types of discrimination are arbitrary in execution even if they are philosophically supportable by some end, because line-drawing is an inherently arbitrary exercise; a sixteen but not a fifteen-year-old is capable of consenting to have sex, a woman in the first trimester but not the second trimester may choose to abort a fetus, and so forth. Many times, the drawing of these lines leads to patently unjust outcomes on a case-by-case basis, and they definitely deprive people of choices or experiences they otherwise would have. But they are neither akin to judgments based on personal taste or sentiment, nor are they usually themselves predicated on prejudiced reasoning.

  • This seems to risk overturning Bob Jones U v US.

    Point this out, and ask if they are so enamored of their own bigotry that they are willing to play fellow travelers to racists.

  • Starbugger

    Sucks but this is America. I have no doubt that this stupid bill will pass into law with flying colors.

  • ZeldasCrown

    Perhaps personal taste wasn’t the best choice of words, but what I essentially meant was using a metric for decision making that isn’t grounded in “I dislike this group or am biased against them”, and more as in “I perceive a difference in these two things/situations/etc and will act accordingly”. For example “I can perceive a difference in average maturity level between 16 and 15 year-olds (which is of course not an absolute, hence average), and will draft legislation as appropriate to help protect young people from sexual predators (which is not to say that the label of predator applicable 100% of the time- but there does need to be some kind of criteria/line here- and can lead to a lot of issues with relationships between people on adjacent sides of the line-say a 15 year old dating a 16 year old, which is an argument as to why some things need to be taken on a case-by-case basis, but I digress)”. One person’s choices hurt other people all the time (whether or not that was the intention), and I guess what I’m trying to say here is that there’s a distinction between making a discrimination for unjust reasons, and making a discrimination (i.e. a choice or discernment or judgement) between two or more options that are nonequivalent (such as choosing the applicant for the doctor position who has a medical degree over the one that doesn’t), which is not to say that the second situation never leads to someone feeling slighted (the person without a medical degree might think he/she was a great candidate, and be angry they didn’t get the job).

  • The Captain

    Whaaaaaaaaa! I lost a democratic election…. TYRANY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Prepare for them to scream something barely intelligible about how acts are different than statuses and that’s why it’s totally OK and not actually the same at all, despite appearances.

    Then again, once you get past the pro forma reflex, I’ve found they actually aren’t all that allergic to being said fellow travelers. There is a disturbing amount of barely suppressed rage over the Civil Rights Act and Heart of Atlanta and other public accommodation measures still floating about in some quarters that takes just a teensy bit of digging to reveal.

    That they are correlated is not to say there is causation going on at all. (I don’t think being an anti-gay bigot causes one to also be a racist.) They just happen to appear together, and it’s a mystery why. 🙂

  • baal

    “They just happen to appear together, and it’s a mystery why.”

    I think innate tribalistic tendencies coupled with a normalization of violence towards out groups is enough of a ‘root cause’ to explain both and to explain why they commingle in the same individuals.

    This human problem with identity (and group identity) is a big part of why I’m so endlessly anti TCC and Lester’s violent rhetoric even when the targets are abstract or ‘deserving’.

  • baal

    Did you miss the political purges under bush the lesser?

  • baal

    It doesn’t work. It’s been tried. The net impact becomes segregation as the ‘whites only’ businesses group together out of a shared customer base. This then repeats for each discriminated group. As minorities have less political power, resources and population, the minority sections (ghettos?) tend to hit downward economic spirals.

  • I think you’re right in large part that human tribal instinct explains much of it away in terms of in-group/out-group dynamics. But I think there is another element peculiar specifically to American culture, where there is a near-perfect conflation these days between “you can’t control my life” and “you can’t have any claims on my public behavior”, with the first being a well-justified cultural touchstone and the second an utter perversion of the sentiment into a lionization of anti-social behavior.

    Often I’ve seen the argument in the context of photographers and bakers and their aversion to taking pictures or baking cakes for gay clients getting married. The framing reaches absurd proportions when the argument becomes about the poor bigots and their inability to exercise their bigotry in pursuit of a livelihood. We find out in 1964 that racists can’t run hotels in a racist fashion, so the poor racist hotel owner quits his business and goes into the wedding planning business in his quest to only serve white folk, only to find out three years later that he can’t be a racist in that business either! Woe is him; the tears wept for such folks tend towards the extra-salty kind.

  • keddaw

    I lost my ability to browse the internet without government watching me… TYRANY!!!!!

    I lost the ability to not be assassinated by the government without at least judicial oversight… TYRANY!!!!!

    I can be taken away and indefinitely detained without due process… TYRANY!!!!!

    I can’t make a phone call without the government knowing where I made it, who I talked to and for how long… TYRANY!!!!!

    I can keep going, this shit is easy…

  • keddaw

    Just because Bush the idiot did similar shit does not absolve Obama. Arrest the pair, possibly on war crimes.

  • Not much of a mystery at proximate correlation level, given the work of Duckett, Sidanius, and Altemeyer.

  • Hey, I am no fan of the PPACA in general lol. I agree with your criticisms of it. I actually think the PPACA is an example of conservativism and incrementalism gone awry- it’s too little. It’s too conservative. It’s not enough change. And the politics of the thing were just horrid, because as you said, politics is about picking winners and losers. Pretending there were no losers was either incredibly naive or deceptive. Spending all one’s political capital on a not-very-radical change in many ways was pretty stupid.

    The time to act on health care was now, but the Democrats botched it in a lot of ways. I just interpret their botch as in being too conservative, not in being too liberal.