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ABDUL-HAKIM SHABAZZ Commentary: We have equal discrimination for all

December 5, 2005

I want to introduce you to a friend of mine (Let's call him "Dave" to protect his identity.) Dave is in his mid-30s. He has a good career, makes a decent living, and volunteers in his community. One day, Dave was at work and his boss came by and noticed there was a picture on his desk. His boss asked who the person was in the picture and Dave replied that it was Sam, his significant other. The boss sort of nodded and went on his way.

A couple of days later, Dave's boss walks by his desk and overhears part of his conversation. Dave is talking to Sam about what to pick up for dinner. Dave ends the conversation with the traditional, "I love you, too." He looks up and sees his boss giving him an odd stare before walking away.

The following week, Sam drops Dave off at his job, kisses him on the cheek, and drives off. Dave's boss notices this and later calls Dave into his office. He tells Dave that, while he is a fine employee, he wonders if his lifestyle will really fit in with the company. He tells Dave he's sorry, but because of his relationship with Sam, he's being let go from his job.

Oh, before I forget, Sam is short for Samantha and Dave's boss is gay.

Sound ridiculous? Not necessarily.

Under current law, an individual in the Capitol City can be fired, denied housing and discriminated against because of his sexual orientation. When people like me advocate that someone should not be discriminated against based on sexual orientation, I'm told I'm trying to give special rights to another class. This is not about special treatment, but equal treatment.

Let's say the next mayor of Indianapolis or governor of Indiana is a non-heterosexual and he or she decides to fire all straight employees. What recourse would they have? None. Fortunately, the governor, mayor and county prosecutor are smart enough to realize people should be judged on who they are, not what other consenting adult they sleep with. And a number of progressive businesses have adopted non-discrimination policies.

But not everyone is so enlightened, there is nothing to stop a restaurant owner from putting up a sign that says no straights or married couples allowed. That owner could rationalize the decision by saying married couples don't have as much disposable income as straight couples (usually because of children) and so they won't order the more expensive menu items, but since gay couples don't have kids and all those other bills, they can pay for the more pricey meals and alcohol. Seems unfair, but under the current code in Marion County it is perfectly legal.

The Indianapolis City-County Council will take up the issue this month. If you're an employer, don't you want the best person for the job? If you're a landlord, don't you want a tenant who pays the rent on time and adds to the quality of life in your building?

If someone is bringing his or her sexual lifestyle into work (gay or straight), he or she should be reprimanded. If a tenant has turned his or her apartment into a brothel with a revolving door and ATM machine, he or she has wrecked the quality of life and should be kicked out.

What's important to remember is that discrimination based on sexual orientation can go both ways. So if you're one of those people who don't think gays or lesbians should be allowed to live a discrimination-free life, you won't feel bad if you're ever fired because you're straight. After all, what's good for the goose is probably good for the gander's domestic partner. It's equal discrimination for all.



Shabazz is the morning show host on WXNT-AM 1430 and an attorney. His column appears monthly. He can be reached by e-mail at ashabazz@ibj.com.
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