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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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April 28, 2005

Questionable associations

Microsoft Corp. has taken a lot of heat for its withdrawal of support for a bill that would make homosexuals a protected class under the antidiscrimination laws. Several of our stories are here, here, and here.

My colleagues in the Seattle media tend to make two assumptions that ought at least to be questioned. One is that issues like this are a corporate concern. Is there anything about Microsoft that makes its voice particularly important on the question of gay rights? Certainly if Microsoft were on the other side, lobbying against the measure, the progressives would be making inflammatory comments about corporate power, corporate influence, corporations trying to control our lives, etc. Well, what sorts of issues should business corporations address in their lobbying? Microsoft says it decided to narrow the range of questions it lobbies for. Maybe it should. I am not sure, but it bothers me that I donít hear Seattle people asking the question.

The second issue is the matter of personal liberty. Traditionally, liberty included the right to associate with others or not. That is the freedom of association. All anti-discrimination laws interfere with this. They say, ďYou are forbidden to disassociate yourself, at least in your business affairs, with a protected group.Ē The first protected group was African Americans, which was the group that had the strongest argument for special treatment. For about 35 years, we have been adding groups, each with a weaker argument, but each with a drumroll of moral fire and certainty from progressives. Clearly the intention is benign; it is to force everyone to ignore race, ethnicity, disability and now sexual orientation in their business affairs. I donít quarrel with the intention, but I donít like the force. I particularly donít like the commentary that assumes that bigotry is the only motivation for opposing such laws. Barry Goldwater opposed the federal civil rights law of 1964 for this reason. Some of the people who voted for him that year were undoubtedly bigots, but he wasnít.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at April 28, 2005 05:51 PM



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