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  • New California Law Illustrates How Nondiscrimination Mandates Can Burden Conscience

    Last week, California passed a law that penalizes organizations that refuse to provide benefits to employees’ same-sex domestic partners or spouses on the same terms they provide benefits to employees’ opposite-sex domestic partners or spouses. Known as SB 117, the law excludes those organizations from competing for state contracts worth $100,000 or more.

    SB 117 further illustrates how nondiscrimination laws factor in to debates regarding same-sex marriage and other legal statuses for homosexual relationships. Same-sex marriage, domestic partnerships, and civil unions confer state recognition on same-sex relationships. Nondiscrimination laws force private citizens and organizations to get on board.

    Some nondiscrimination laws contain at least certain protections for religious or moral conscience on these kinds of issues. SB 117 does not.

    Of course, many state contractors in California likely will have no moral or religious objection to providing the same benefits to employees’ same-sex partners as to employees’ opposite-sex partners. Free-market forces provide powerful incentives for employers to respond to evolving demands from qualified employees.

    However, some organizations might believe that providing benefits to employees’ same-sex partners or spouses violates religious or moral beliefs about marriage as one man and one woman. Under laws like SB 117, those organizations could be forced to stop competing for state contracts, to violate their religious or moral convictions, or to cut spousal / partner benefits across the board.

    When lawmakers fail to protect religious or moral conscience, nondiscrimination laws can turn “culture wars” into “conscience wars” by using state power to increase the stakes of private citizens’ sticking to religious or moral convictions about issues like marriage and family. To justify that costly outcome, watch for proponents of new policies to abandon arguments grounded in liberty and state neutrality in favor of highly moralistic arguments.

    This is not surprising: Everyone has a worldview, and everyone inevitably brings that worldview to bear on issues of public policy, especially issues involving family, marriage, and sexuality. The key point is that citizens with opposing moral viewpoints should feel equally free to make their voices heard.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to New California Law Illustrates How Nondiscrimination Mandates Can Burden Conscience

    1. Chris in N.Va. says:

      Of course, if the employer simply implements rules to not grant such benefits — and even revoke those that have already been granted — that would comply with the letter of the law. Then people can sign up for Obama-cares-yes-he-does!

      Problem solved, uintended consequences be damned. Cool.

    2. Jan Y says:

      Anyone know why "…the law excludes those organizations from competing for state contracts worth $100,000 or more" ?

    3. JosephG says:

      It is also foreseeable that employers concerned about violating their conscience in this way might find that avoiding hiring (or terminating) persons with same-sex partners may weigh less heavily on their conscience than offering benefits. One result of this could be less jobs for those who live openly homosexual lifestyles. The other is a spike in punitive law suits based on the suspicion that legitimate hiring/firing reasons were merely a pretext for avoiding extending benefits to same-sex partners when in fact the employer is innocent. Neither outcome would be welcome – not a good change in the law.

    4. Randy F says:

      Sadly, this is just but one of the side developments in the overall trend in the American culture is to further separate sex, love, marriage and children. I have not poured through the appropriate statistics on this in particular, but generally when the family unit breaks down there is a corresponding development of government and programs to
      deal with broken families and children. This process is beneficial for the development of a growing government, but detrimental to the stabilization of a civilization. When a government grows itself on the reinforcement of defending the disintegration of the family, the future of that civilization will not at all look anything like what it is intended to be. Americans pride themselves for being so advanced in civil and moral issues, we are not. The inevitable outcome is not attractive in any light.

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