As part of my AA100 ‘the arts past and present’ course, one of the tutors posted a discussion on ‘cultural exemptions’ using the example of that Christian couple who wouldn’t let a married gay couple share a double room. The couple wanted to gain exemption from the law on the grounds that they do not believe in sex before marriage. I’m sure you can see the problem here, the gay couple in question are married – or at least as married as the law will allow them. The judge ruled that they had acted unlawfully, as they were in violation of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 – I also believe that this ruling strengths the place of civil partnerships. The director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission made a very good point that by opening their home as a commercial enterprise ‘ “means that community standards, not private ones, must be upheld.” ‘
I think that using this case is a bad example as there are no situations where discrimination is okay and I’m getting increasing fed up with the position that homophobia is okay, that it’s okay to discuss situations where discrimination is allowed and that we can’t say “no, that’s wrong.” because religion is involved. This would never be the case in a racial discrimination case, we don’t believe racism of any form is acceptable in any situation so why is homophobia allowed?
I don’t believe anyone has the right to exemption from the law, no matter what they feel about it. If you break the law, you should be treated as equal as anyone else would be – the law is blind. Sentencing is a different issue, if you break the law you should be dealt with under the law – if that law allows for circumstances to be taken into consideration then that is what should happen (although I think that child murder, rape, paedophilia and animal abuse should carry set sentences). I agree that no issue it truly black and white but I think that grey areas hurt people.
An example recently used in a discussion was could you specify that you only wanted women applicants? The answer is sort of – there are circumstances where you can but I believe this is wrong as this sort of exemption has the potential to be used for discrimination. If a male-to-female transsexual applied for the position, could they be discriminated against because biologically they are male? Legally, I don’t think they could but it’s this sort of grey area that bothers me (and this case has happened I also found a very stupid news article about a transsexual). I do not believe that your gender has any bearing on your ability to do a job, whether you’re the right and appropriate person for the job is all that should matter. I don’t like this idea that only a woman and can understand rape, what if you’re a woman who has been raped by another woman or a man who has been raped by a man, or a man who has been raped by a woman or a woman who would rather be counselled by a man? Should you be denied access to a male counsellor because someone has made the decision that only women are able to do the job? Sometimes when I make a doctor’s appointment I’m asked if I want to see a female doctor – to be honest, I don’t mind as I don’t think my doctors gender means they are going to treat me any different, but I do wonder if a man is asked the same question or if they have to tell the receptionist they want a male doctor? I also sometimes wonder if men are scared to ask in case they’re thought of as sexist.
I suppose my position is that in order for society to be equal, we have to be blind.