Family Research Council

Testimony by Peter Sprigg in Opposition to House Bill 1265

By Peter Sprigg Senior Fellow for Policy Studies

Testimony in Opposition to House Bill 1265
By Peter Sprigg
Senior Fellow for Policy Studies, Family Research Council
Resident, Montgomery County, Maryland

Health and Government Operations Committee
House of Delegates
General Assembly of Maryland
Annapolis, Maryland

March 5, 2014

At its heart, the debate over this bill is not about "gender identity," or "discrimination."

What we are debating here today is: freedom.

Specifically, we are talking about a free market.

In a free market for employment, willing employers and willing workers make free choices to contract with each for labor.

In a free market for goods and services, consumers and businesses make free agreements for the purchase of products offered by the business and desired by the consumer.

Freedom -- or liberty -- has an intrinsic value. No man or woman wants to be coerced by another into taking actions against his will, or to be prevented by another from acting as she chooses.

Economic freedom is the very foundation of the prosperity that we enjoy in this country.

Perhaps the advocates of this bill believe that "discrimination" of any kind is an evil that must be eradicated at all costs.

But it cannot be done -- nor should it. The only way to avoid some kind of "discrimination" in employment is for the names of all applicants for a job to be put in a hat, and the name of the successful applicant to be drawn randomly. Any other method represents "discrimination."

If we are to eliminate "discrimination" in public accommodations, surely the first to go must be those signs that say, "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service." Is this not a form of "discrimination?" In fact, it's based on appearance, dress and grooming -- the very type of "discrimination" targeted by this bill.

I would submit to you that liberty and "non-discrimination" are not equally important values. In our country, liberty is the fundamental value that towers above almost all others, exceeded only by life itself.

Does that mean that we should allow any form of "discrimination" in the name of liberty? No -- but it does mean that "non-discrimination" laws (in which the coercive power of the government is brought to bear against the freedom of the individual business owner) should represent only the narrowest and most limited possible exception to the principle of liberty.

It is because African Americans suffered more than two centuries of brutal slavery and another century of legally enforced segregation that eliminating discrimination based only on race warrants infringing on individual liberty. Few other categories meet that standard, and this one-gender identity-does not.

Of course, transgendered people have a right to the "pursuit of Happiness" as well. What they do not have, however, is the "right" to enlist the coercive power of the state in an effort to guarantee the attainment of the Happiness that they pursue, at the expense of the liberty of others.

I'm no Patrick Henry. I'm not going to say, "Give me liberty or give me death." This is not a hill to die on. But do give us liberty -- and keep the Free State free.