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[personal profile] mirrorshard
Simon Jenkins has been grumping about rights again, starting with Pope Benedict and moving on to Harriet Harman.

Obviously, Jenkins has an internally consistent view, but where he falls down - in my opinion - is in the basic principle that some people Have Rights To Do Things, and other people Try To Stop Them[1].

This is quite a naive model of rights, and it's rather more complicated than that; we all have intersecting, overlapping, and occasionally opposing rights. In the first case he discusses, the Catholic organizations have the right to decide their own hiring policies, but the employees have the right not to be discriminated against (and not to be pressured either to reveal or to conceal their orientation) and the people they serve, many of whom are also homosexual, have the right to be served by people who will understand and not discriminate against them.

(NB: I'm using "right" in a moral rather than a legal sense here, with the attendant fuzziness, ambiguity, and imprecision. This fuzziness, ambiguity, and imprecision is a feature not a bug.)

So, this situation is inevitable; there are basically two ways for it to be dealt with.

First, no interference, which is to say whoever's got the power makes the rules. Except in very rare cases, employment is a buyer's market, and in cases like this with long-established policies of discrimination it's even more so. The prospective employee has no leverage. The problem with this sort of entrenched power situation is that it will inevitably amplify itself, further increasing and solidifying the inequality in power relations, because that's what capitalistic setups do.

The other is for an outside body to arbitrate, and to judge which right is more important. It can - will - do this on whatever grounds it likes, without necessarily making reference to the internal logic either party uses to justify its arguments. At the moment, the government is doing this. It's making decisions based on a number of factors, including harm to the people involved; harm to the organisations involved; satisfying its own obligations under domestic and EU law; and its own reputation.

What the government isn't doing, on the other hand, is either serving or opposing anyone else's agenda. It isn't a case of considering one party's actions and either permitting or denying them; instead, they're balancing two requests-to-carry-on and deciding which one will do less harm and be more socially useful.




[1] And the bit where he drifts off into frothing hatred of Harriet Harman and all her works, obviously.
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