Opinion Pieces


More Light than Heat Needed on Sexual Orientation Issue January 21, 2015 by Andy French & Richard Nelson

A recent editorial and political cartoon in The News suggested that citizens who voiced their concerns about a controversial issue to the city council “speaks volumes about the negativity people still experience”.  Exactly who experienced negativity because of these comments is unclear.  Concerned citizens of Murray simply shared their concerns with their elected representatives.  How did those communications “speak volumes” about anything and how did they come across as negative?

The News editorial stated “to say that LGBT members should be discriminated against…is hateful and counterproductive” and that “to turn them away and stifle their opportunities not only hurts them, but hurts the community as well.”  What we have here is a fictional narrative about life in Murray.  The implication is that any opposition amounts to bigotry and hate and that Murray is a town full of human rights abuses.

It should be clear to college level students and aspiring journalists that disagreement does not equal discrimination. Significant policy proposals should be accompanied by robust debate, mutual respect, and an attempt at better understanding. Demonizing and caricaturing the opposition as a political cartoon recently printed in The News isn’t helpful or constructive toward those ends. 

Consider that proposed ordinance essentially elevates sexual identity and sexual orientation to civil rights status on par with race and ethnicity. It would specifically make it illegal to make a judgment on sexual orientation or gender identity regarding housing, employment and public accommodations. While nobody should condone ugly or bigoted treatment toward a fellow human being, several questions should be answered before the city council takes action.

Good journalists would ask, “why is this ordinance needed”? They would point to documented cases of sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination. (There are none in Murray). Good journalists would ask “how does this ordinance affect those opposed to it”?  (It has been used in other cities and states to punish business owners who refuse to materially participate through their products or services in gay weddings).

We were once told that somebody’s private sexual life is nobody’s business. Should this ordinance pass, it drags one’s sex life into the hiring process and politicizes the workplace. Here’s how: if employers shouldn’t ask about somebody’s private sex life during an interview and the prospective employee doesn’t bring this up, then how can an employer be held accountable for failing to hire somebody based on their sexual orientation?

Truth is, most business owners are having trouble finding hard working and qualified employees. They are most concerned about finding reliable workers who contribute to their team.  No credible employers are going out of their way to look for a reason not to hire an otherwise well-qualified employee.

Unfortunately, The News failed to report on both sides of the story.  If you disagree with their position, you will be considered intolerant.  If you don’t support this ordinance, in their opinion, you don’t understand basic human rights.  Such rhetorical thuggery is polarizing and hinders serious discussion of important policy considerations.

We trust the Murray City Council to do its due diligence, thoroughly consider the implications of this issue, and not be bullied into passing an ordinance that that amounts to bad public policy.

Andy French,
President, Commonwealth Policy Center
Richard Nelson
Executive Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

This article appeared January 23 in the Murray State University student newspaper called The News



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