Sunday, March 3, 2013

Un-Outlawing Discrimination?

Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez

Colombia's strongly conservative Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez has joined a lawsuit against enforcement of the nation's anti-discrimination law. The law imposes prison sentences for discriminating against someone based on race, religion or sexual orientation.

Strange as that seems for a man supposed to make sure officials obey the law, Ordóñez's move makes sense for him, and perhaps even for Colombia.

Ordóñez claims the anti-discrimination law could violate free speech and religious rights of religiously devout people. One has to suspect, tho, that what the Very, Very Catholic and conservative Ordóñez really objects to is having to recognize equal rights of sexual minorities. After all, Ordoñez seems to want to return to an era long-past when everybody was either heterosexual or in hiding. That conservatism seemed to be present in his son's recent wedding, at which the priest performed mass in Latin, with his back to the audience. Those are traditions long abandoned by most Catholics, altho departing Pope Benedict also appears to want to bring them back.

Still, Ordoñez may have some valid points. Some Catholics and members of some other religions believe that homosexuality is a sin. Would obligating them to, say, rent an apartment to a gay couple violate their freedom of religion?

On the other hand, what if, God forbid, one of those extremist racist and anti-Semitic religions from the United States set up down here? Using Ordoñez's reasoning, would they have a right to exclude blacks and Jews from their churches and businesses? How about simply expressing their racist beliefs on the Internet or in church?

On these issues, I tend to support freedoms, at least as long as there's no pressing danger to others.

Giving blood, a fundamental right?

It seems to me that the priest of Ordoñez's church has a right to preach that homosexuality is a sin - but only inside the church, where listeners are there voluntarily, and not on a streetcorner where he'd be subjecting passers-by to his ideas. Also, urging his followers to go out and take hostile actions against gays or lesbians would cross the line of acceptability.

These are complex issues. Sadly, sexism is fundamental to many religions. The Catholic Church, for example, bars women from the priesthood and many other important church positions. Does the anti-discrimation law, taken to its logical extreme, ban the Catholicism?

Undoubtedly, many Colombians (like people in every country) say things every day which could be considered discriminatory. In recent months, several such comments have been made in Parliament. One deputy made derogatory comments about investing in El Chocó, an impoverished, mostly Afro-Colombian region near the Pacific Coast. That deputy recieved disciplinary sanctions from Parliament. Another senator made insulting remarks about gay male sexual acts.

Another issue is blood donation. It seems pretty clear, for obvious reasons, that certain diseases, beginning with AIDS, are much more common amongst sexually-active gay men than amongst the general population. Prohibiting gay men from donating blood may technically amount to discrimination. But it's also common sense and biological reality.

Blatant discrimination! Newspaper help wanted
ads specify female salespeople.
It would make no sense to endanger public health just to satisfy the letter of the law.

What about discrimination based on gender? That is rampant in hiring, where help wanted ads routinely specify the gender of potential employees. And, it's always seemed to me that the widespread practice of attaching one's photo to one's resume opens the door wide to discrimination based on ethnicity, physical attractiveness and other qualities.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Stuart Oswald said...

Sorry to read another bigoted article from yourself.

mauricio forero l said...

What a sinister character...He looks like Richard M. Daley, former Mayor of Chicago ( take a look Mike, he looks like his twin brother)
Any way, i wonder why every time you're trying to achieve progress at any level, it is always either big companies or religious entities the ones that go and act as an obstacle. how anyone go and, chooses somebody like this guy to be in any kind of ministry astonish me.
it is about time for Latin America to become secular when it comes to politics and government. Lets look at Scandinavia, or, and, not to go to far geographically lets look at Uruguai, a country that is achieving so much progress.
This guy ( Ordonez ) and, his backwardness should be dismissed from office now.

Miguel said...


I think that Ordoñez, for better or for worse, is representative of a substantial portion of Colombian public opinion.


Miguel said...

Bigoted, Stuart? I thought it was quite balanced and that you'd like it.


mauricio forero l said...

What is your point Miguel???
He could be representing the whole country and, yet still wrong. What he proposes and, want to establish is totally unfair and wrong.