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What ‘Civil Liberties’ Are We Defending, Anyway?

From the editors

The following is a guest reaction by Christopher Wolfe, a PhD student in politics at Claremont Graduate University.

The recent debate over CUA’s single-sex housing policy is the newest episode in the ACLU’s attack on what they call “gender identity.” The case with CUA (mixed-sex dorms) is actually mild compared to what the ACLU has been pushing for in other colleges accross the country: mixed-sex dorm rooms.

As bizarre as that sounds, this logical conclusion of their civil liberty argument is being pushed for in many schools, including the undergraduate colleges in Claremont where I’m currently getting my PhD.

I recently participated in a written debate with the student head of the ACLU in Claremont over this issue, and the crux of the issue seemed to come down to the following:

What civil liberties is the ACLU defending exactly? Fair and equal treatment of each woman and man certainly is a civil liberty we should fight for, but that is not what is at stake with gender separate housing. Whenever the word “separate” is used, people assume some kind of unfair discrimination. The word “separate” recalls the famous 1954 desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court rightly overruled the racist “separate but equal doctrine” that prevented blacks from attending local public schools. However, separate dorm rooms for women and men say nothing about either gender’s superiority.

Differences between citizens are recognized all the time by the government; without them, we could not have a progressive income tax, for example. Recognizing differences is only a violation of civil liberties when citizens are mistreated on the basis of indelible characteristics such as race, as blacks were back in the 1950s. Blacks required the status of a “protected class” to prevent the unfair discrimination of segregation.

On the other hand, there is no discrimination based on indelible characteristics in the case of same-sex housing, and affected students do not merit the status of a protected class. People who don’t believe in “biological sex or gender identity” can always attend some other private college. For colleges to delve into the minds of its students and protect every imaginable opinion would be impossible and contradictory. That is why the premise of the ACLU’s “civil liberty” argument is absurd.


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