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Lesbian case “sets an example” for all service providers

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  1. Robert, ex-pat Brit 28 Jul 2008, 6:28pm

    I wonder too how many civil partnered couples are facing similar discrimination?

  2. Paul Brownsey 29 Jul 2008, 2:17pm

    While I entirely agree that what the firm did was indefensible, I can’t quite see it as *discrimination*, unless “discrimination” is being used as an all-purpose term equivalent to “bad thing”. Can anyone put me right?

  3. Robert, ex-pat Brit 29 Jul 2008, 2:32pm

    Paul, the point is…why did the estate agents have to make a notation that the couple are lesbians? What has one’s sexual orientation to do with the delivery of goods and services? What is the relevance in recording such information to buy a house or anything? Is the sexual orientation of a straight couple noted? The answer is NO! Why single out gay couples? Get the point?

  4. Paul Brownsey 30 Jul 2008, 3:39pm

    Robert’s “Get the point?” is needlessly hectoring, but that aside I’m still not convinced that discrimination is at the heart of what was objectionable in the firm’s behaviour. Suppose the firm *did* note the sexual orientation of every couple: in that case, what seems central to Robert’s conception of the discrimination here (“Is the sexual orientation of a straight couple noted?”) would not apply, but the firm’s behaviour would still be objectionable. There would still be breach of confidence, exposure of the couple to the risk of abuse, etc.

    One way of bringing the case under the heading of discrimination may be this: that what the firm did had bad consequences for the lesbian couple that would have been far less likely to arise if they had done the comparable thing in the case of a straight couple. Another may be this: that the firm has a duty of care to all its customers that they not be exposed to risk via its dealings with them, and this duty of care was unequally exercised in the case of the lesbian couple compared to heterosexual couples. There is also the complication that the legal meaning of words sometimes parts company with their everyday meaning, and this may be the case (I don’t know) with “discrimination”. In general, though, I’m not convinced that all bad treatment of gay people can plausibly be presented in terms of discrimination, or at least in terms of discrimination being at the core of what’s wrong, even though I can see it can be politically persuasive to do this – “We just want to be treated like everyone else,” etc. It doesn’t make cruelty, for instance, OK if everyone is treated cruelly. (An Andy Capp cartoon from the 1950s springs to mind: “He’s fair, I’ll grant him that – he’s horrible to everyone.”) A parent who rejects their only child for being gay is behaving abominably but I can’t quite see how it’s discriminatory, unless you’re going to get into the murky territory of how they would have behaved if they’d had a straight child as well.

  5. Russell Jones & Walker 31 Jul 2008, 6:23pm

    In association with Pink News, Russell Jones & Walker will be holding a free seminar on sexual orientation and the rights of individuals on 18 September 2008 in Manchester.

    See here for details:

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