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Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell
9 Feb 2016
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Affirmative Action and Gay Marriage


The politically clever way to get special privileges is to call them "rights"— especially "equal rights."

Some local election campaigns in various states are using that tactic this year, trying to get special privileges through affirmative action quotas or through demands that the definition of marriage be changed to suit homosexuals.

Equality of rights does not mean equality of results. I can have all the equal treatment in the world on a golf course and I will not finish within shouting distance of Tiger Woods.

When arbitrary numerical "goals" or "quotas" under affirmative action are not met, the burden of proof is put on the employer to prove that he did not discriminate against minorities or women. No burden of proof whatever is put on the advocates of "goals" or "quotas" to show that people would be equally represented in jobs, colleges or anywhere else in the absence of discrimination.

Tons of evidence from countries around the world, and over centuries of history, show that statistical disparities are the rule, not the exception— even in situations where discrimination is virtually impossible.

Anonymously graded tests do not show the same results from one group to another. In many countries there are minorities who completely outperform members of the majority population, whether in education, in the economy or in sports, even when there is no way that they can discriminate against the majority.

Putting the burden of proof on everybody except yourself is a slick political ploy. The time is long overdue for the voting public to see through it.

Another fraud on the ballot this year is gay "marriage."

Marriage has existed for centuries and, until recent times, it has always meant a union between a man and a woman. Over those centuries, a vast array of laws has grown up, all based on circumstances that arise in unions between a man and a woman.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that law has not been based on logic but on experience.

To apply a mountain of laws based specifically on experience with relations between a man and a woman to a different relationship where sex differences are not involved would be like applying the rules of baseball to football.

The argument that current marriage laws "discriminate" against homosexuals confuses discrimination against people with making distinctions among different kinds of behavior.

All laws distinguish among different kinds of behavior. What other purpose does law have?

While people may be treated the same, all their behaviors are not. Laws that forbid bicycles from being ridden on freeways obviously have a different effect on people who have bicycles but no cars.

But this is not discrimination against a person. The cyclist who gets into a car is just as free to drive on the freeway as anybody else.

The question is not whether gays should be permitted to marry. Many gays have already married people of the opposite sex. Conversely, heterosexuals who might want to marry someone of the same sex in order to make some point will be forbidden to do so, just as gays are.

The real issue is whether marriage should be redefined— and, if for gays, why not for polygamists? Why not for pedophiles?

Despite heavy television advertising in California for "gay marriage," showing blacks being set upon by police dogs during civil right marches, and implying that homosexuals face the same discrimination today, the analogy is completely false.

Blacks had to sit in the back of the bus because they were black. They were doing exactly what white people were doing— riding a bus. That is what made it racial discrimination.

Marriage is not a right but a set of legal obligations imposed because the government has a vested interest in unions that, among other things, have the potential to produce children, which is to say, the future population of the nation.

Gays were on their strongest ground when they said that what they did was nobody else's business. Now they are asserting a right to other people's approval, which is wholly different.

None of us has a right to other people's approval.

To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His Web site is



5 Comments | Post Comment
Sowell is all "Ego and Mouth."
Comment: #1
Posted by: Bush
Tue Nov 4, 2008 7:05 AM
Sir;...You have a profound mis understanding of the nature of rights... Rights are those conditions or powers people feel necessary for their existence...People know what they need, and there is no denying of needs... If they need equality of treatment in spite of sexual orientation that is what they know they need... No amount of your denying that need makes them better, different, or having different needs. But what is the role of government in regard tto rights??? Every government is a form of relationship, and every form of relationship has a common purpose, of survival... Every form is built upon a view of rights... Even the must unequal forms of relationship, if truly relationships, defend rights... All communities defend rights... So the question is, what rights do they defend??? If a community defend the rights of its members it must also keep those rights from conflict... Your rights, if truly rights should not conflict with my rights, and your rights, if essential to you, are justified...So what purpose does government as a community have in limiting rights??? None; in my estimation... The people needs those rights they claim, and a community is made of defense of rights so governemnt has no business in limiting rights without proven necessity, without a proven interference of right with right...If people on the basis of a mere majority command government to extinguish rights they weaken their community, and in fact, they limit their community to themselves, and make a new community of those they attack...We know what rights are... All those powers under a heading of life, liberty and happiness are our right whether the government makes itself our government by defending those rights or not...We must understand that liberty rests upon democracy, and democracy rests upon equality; so anything acting against equality is the enemy of rights and liberty... Is property is a right??? Are the rights of property rights at all??? The name suggests that it is not a true right.. It does not come about with the life of its owner, but with his possession of property, which destroys equality, and marks one as different from another...Since the whole people defend what only few enjoy, it makes one a master, another a slave, and destroys equality upon which our democracy depends...In spite of our feeling the need for stabile property relations to guarantee what we work for, property as private property must be a privilege... And there is the difference; because it is essential that government defend rights unless they can be proved to be an injury to the people; but privileges must be defended by those who possess them, by showing a pure public benefit....Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #2
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Tue Nov 4, 2008 7:42 AM
To "Bush": Mr. Sowell may be "all ego and mouth," but in this case he's right. While I personally see nothing wrong with extending civil marriage to include gay couples, I don't see marriage as a "right." Like a driver's license, it's a privilege granted by the state, and it imposes certain obligations and responsibilities in exchange for that privilege. In fact, considering some of the people who are allowed to have driver's licenses, and some of the people who are allowed to get married, maybe the requirements for BOTH ought to be stricter.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Scot Penslar
Wed Nov 5, 2008 11:50 PM
Mr. Sowell,

With respect, your characterization of the debate over gay marriage is completely incorrect.

Let us begin with the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court, long ago, ruled that the right to marry was a so-called fundamental right, and as such is subject to strict scrutiny provisions under the Fourteenth Amendment. This happened way back, long before same-sex marriage became an issue in (not surprisingly) a case involving interracial marriage. (Why so many conservative black pundits fail to understand the parallels between civil rights on the basis of race and on the basis of sexual orientation is beyond me.)

You suggest, incorrectly, that marriage is not a "right" but a "set of responsibilities". Beyond that set of responsibilities, however, there is also a huge swath of privilege, of benefits, of special treatment under the law, afforded to those who are married, denied to those who are not. If there was any question that government is deeply, completely entangled in marriage, that point alone should dispel it. And if government is going to award privileges, *under the law*, based upon marital status, then government has a clear obligation to ensure that restrictions on the right to marry (and thus to access those government-sponsored privileges) meet the strict scrutiny standard: that is, narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest.

And bans on same-sex marriage do not. The compelling state interest, we are told, is that "traditional" marriage helps ensure children are born to a committed mother-and-father couple. If this interest is compelling, then the requirement fails, because it does nothing to ensure that even one child, much less most or all, are born in such relationships. In fact, with about 3/4 of African-American children born out of wedlock, it would seem that a policy of "traditional marriage only" has been an abject failure in that respect.

On the other hand, the policy also fails because it does not require procreation to take advantage of its benefits. An argument MIGHT be made that benefits conferred on married couples were constitutional, if they only accrued upon the birth of children in the marriage. But as sterile or infertile people can be married, and in fact since contraception is also considered a fundamental right, clearly the state is not narrowly tailoring the restriction to meet its alleged "compelling state interest".

And when the inevitable canard "Well, you're not prohibited from marrying; a gay man can marry any woman he chooses, he just can't marry another man" arises, one can only imagine the state position in the previous Supreme Court cases. A black man can marry any black woman he wants to, your Honor - he just can't marry a white woman. Or a woman can marry any free man she wants to, Your Honor - she just can't marry a prisoner.

Legal arguments aside, the statement that "has always meant a union between a man and a woman" is both wrong, on its face, and logically fallacious. In the past, marriage has, in many cultures - including the Judeo- part of the Judeo-Christian heritage we espouse in the West - sometimes meant a union between a man and SEVERAL women. You suggest that same-sex marriage is one step towards polygamy, without recognizing that in fact polygamy WAS a "traditional marriage" arrangement for many people at some points in history. It still is, for some Muslims, and it was, until recently, for Mormons. There are still people who practice it, illegally, today in America. So "traditional" marriage, as people seem to want to define it today, is anything but traditional.

The further problem is that marriage today is far removed from what it "was," traditionally. Until less than a century ago, in most of the western world, "traditional marriage" meant a man taking over virtual ownership of his wife - he could buy or sell property with their common funds without her consent, indebt them both, mortgage property they owned without her knowledge. THAT was what marriage "always meant", until not very long ago. Should the changes wrought to emancipate women from that sort of control in a marriage have been opposed because they were rewriting the definition of marriage? Should efforts to curb polygamy have been opposed because "traditionally" men had always been able to have multiple wives?

The fundamental problem with the "it's always been like this" argument is that it assumes that the current characteristics of marriage amount to its essence, what it's always been - ignoring that had you drawn that line at any point in the past, the fundamental characteristics of marriage would have been seen as different. I've read enough of your work to know that you're exceptionally intelligent, and have a relentlessly logical mind. How you can miss this example of fallacious thinking in your own mind is beyond me.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Kevin Morgan
Thu Nov 6, 2008 12:51 AM
Mr. Sowell, your analysis about rights and previleges don't fly at all. You are stating:"Blacks had to sit in the back of the bus because they were black. They were doing exactly what white people were doing- riding the bus. That is what made it racial discrimination". Well Homosexuals want to do exactly what all other people are doing and that is getting married. Denying the same right to homosecuals is unconstitutional. It is a civil right issues unless you are of the mistaken opinion that being gay or lesbian is a choice.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Leonard
Mon Nov 10, 2008 4:34 PM
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