On non-discrimination about sex

This is very fun, very fun indeed:

Australia\’s hotel industry has been rocked by a court\’s ruling that a prostitute was illegally discriminated against by a motel owner who refused to rent her a room to work from.

Prostitution is legal. Further:

Prostitution is legal in Queensland, and discrimination based on lawful sexual activity is outlawed.

We ourselves have had a similar (no, not the same, but similar) case: a B&B owner, however Christian, cannot refuse to let a room with a double bed to Teh Gayers.

Discrimination on the basis of lawful sexual activity is illegal.

Myself I\’ve always taken the view that we\’ve a little problem in English given that we use the word discrimination to cover two different things. Taste discrimination, the racism, sexism, etc etc etc stuff, and rational discrimination, perhaps we don\’t want johns wandering through the hotel hallways at 3 am, maybe hiring that just married woman desperate for kids might not be the wisest decision given the maternity leave laws.

I\’m absolutely against the law embracing taste discrimination, being based upon it. But I\’m much more relaxed about the law allowing taste discrimination. Partly because blanket bans on discrimination leave no room for that rational type. But also because I do think that people should have the freedom and liberty to taste discriminate if that\’s what they want to do.

Yes, this does mean that I believe that people should be free to be racist, sexist and all the rest. I don\’t think there would be very much of it, given the way that societal attitudes have changed in recent decades (and I really do think that it is attitudes which have changed, not the law that has driven the behaviour change). A pub that announced it was banning blacks and Irish would be empty within 30 minutes. A pub that bans prostitutes picking up the punters inside is a highly desirable thing: as the pub down the road from me actually does. The tarts from the town brothel (yes, this is Portugal) are entirely welcome as customers. But not when they\’re looking for customers.

9 thoughts on “On non-discrimination about sex”

  1. I’ve decided it would be best to do away with even the bans on discrimination with respect to sex, race etc, with one huge qualification. Nobody running a monopoly would be allowed to discriminate. So no to government, established churches, professions with monopoly rights, and so forth. But if Mohamed in the corner shop wishes to discriminate, so be it. He can answer to the market.

  2. dearieme,

    This reminds me of when IBM were the first large company to explicitly state that they wouldn’t discriminate against homosexuals. It wasn’t because they were gay-loving liberals, it was because it was bad business to discriminate.

    It’s why when you find racial, sexual or homophobic discrimination it’s always microbusinesses. Some couple running a B&B who put their religious beliefs over making cash. Hilton don’t care what you get up to, as long as you don’t damage the trouser press.

  3. Milton Friedman covered this one.

    If there’s no law on discrimination then irrational discrimination comes with a price tag. Rational discrimination doesn’t.

    If you don’t like your food served by black people then you’re going to have to pay a higher price to sit in that restaurant because your prejudice is irrational.

    Markets have solved this distinction already:
    irrational = you pay
    rational = you don’t

  4. “the town brothel (yes, this is Portugal)”

    You make it sound like it’s run by the Town Council.

    Being Portugal, perhaps it is run by the Town Council.

  5. Can’t the hotel make it a condition of hiring the room that you don’t work in it?

    OK, that would screw up most business travellers.

    So can’t the hotel make it a condition of hiring the room that it is only used by the registered guests? And that you can’t change one of the registrations on an hourly basis?

  6. Seems a perfectly easy way to deal with the problem. Require room visitors to register with reception. End of problem.

  7. @ dearieme

    “established churches”

    I’m not sure about that one. Firstly, it’s a deeply subjective definition. Secondly, those of a religious persuasion, who consider things written down centuries ago to have far greater force than anything decided by powers since. are probably amongst those with (peversely, perhaps) the greatest justification for their prejudices.

  8. Can’t the hotel make it a condition of hiring the room that you don’t work in it?

    Suits me. Not that you’d catch me working in a hotel too often, regardless of what I tell the bosses…

  9. I live in Queensland. It’s not a major story here actually. Probably swamped by the Olympics.

    The major legally-sounding opposition is close to the “no work” comments above, it’s the argument that “you can’t conduct a business in my business without my permission”. I think it’s too grey though; travelling business people often conduct business in a hotel room so the precedent was not wanting to be set by the judge, even if the legal case could be made.

    The sympathy for the motel owner is pretty strong in “the community” though; the owner doesn’t want their little family business to be a knocking shop, and to most that sounds fair enough.

    But if you can’t allow discrimination against people based on legal sexual activity (and you can’t, of course), and the opposition based on workplace stuff doesn’t work, then you’re stuck.

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