Discrimination: It’s just bad for business – and governance

Do you remember “the discussion?” I’d wager dollars to doughnuts you do.

When parents decide to talk to their kids about sex, it can be an uncomfortable and memorable event. It was probably awkward when your father gave you a condom and said, “Put this on before you’re too excited to care,” or your mother discussed the negative ramifications of promiscuity. To this day, whenever it becomes known family-wide that I have a female interest, my older sister unfailingly gets on my back about the necessity of safe sex.

However, I’ve never been told to choose not to be sexually attracted to a girl. In fact, I’ve never met any heterosexual who’s been told that sexual attraction is a choice and that one can choose not to desire physical contact. Sexual attraction isn’t generally considered to be a choice – most people know that sort of thing isn’t a function of rational thought.

At the very least, it isn’t for heterosexuals.

Those with alternative sexual orientations are apparently believed to possess carnal instincts that are entirely different. Christian groups bombard all forms of media with the idea that homosexuality is a choice, and it’s often asserted that “the choice” of homosexuality is grounds for acceptable discrimination – as though such a thing exists.

Luckily, there are some elected officials who see through this twaddle. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Orange County Commission recently passed a fair-housing ordinance that prohibits discrimination against those of alternative sexual inclinations. Eleven cities and four other counties (Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm-Beach) have similar fair-housing ordinances. Of course, that good news is bittersweet, since there are still 62 counties in Florida that allow discrimination based on sexual orientation.

One of those counties is Hillsborough.

In addition to having no protection for gays in its fair-housing ordinance, Hillsborough County allows discrimination against gays in the workplace. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the Hillsborough County Commission voted on and rejected a request by Hillsborough County Commissioner Kathy Castor in October of last year that would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation for private and public employees.

The request by Castor followed a vote in June 2005 that prohibited public libraries from promoting Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. When the June vote occurred, Hillsborough Commissioner Ronda Storms convinced most of her fellow commissioners to ban any county government recognition of gay pride. Not only that, Storms proposed – and the commission passed – a decision that the gay pride ban could only be rescinded by a 5-2 majority vote, thereby making it quite difficult for the gay community to make any headway in their fight for equality in Hillsborough County.

Their rationale was admirably specious: Storms said she didn’t want taxpayer money to be spent in support of a gay lifestyle. That would be fine if the government didn’t spend money supporting lifestyles. However, considering the fact that Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) is paid $162,100 per year of taxpayer money for his endless support of the so-called traditional American family, it stops seeming like small-government conservatism and starts seeming like discrimination.

Such discrimination isn’t just unfair; it’s expensive. A recent private report states that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, approved by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, cost the Pentagon $363.8 million over 10 years.

Generally accepted accounting principles won’t pick up the cost of Hillsborough County’s discrimination, so how much the county will lose in tourism, conventions, employers and other investments will probably remain a mystery. However, one fact is certain: Business is business, and most businesses aren’t going to desire a label that will drive away customers, be it by gays or any other group of people. In seeking avoidance of such a label, businesses could easily choose to skip over Hillsborough County.

Allowances for discrimination are unacceptable. A meritocracy can only be achieved when people have reasonably equal opportunity. Failing to formally prohibit discrimination in society against groups such as gays who are measurably discriminated against is an outrage. For the Republican Party – of which I am a proud member – to speak of opportunity and at the same time allow discrimination of this sort is simply unacceptable.

Jordan Capobianco is a senior majoring in English literature.