Banning “Discrimination” That Might Protect Safety

Politicians love to vote against “discrimination.” It makes them feel saintly, even if the law they vote for has unintended consequences, saddles businesses with red tape, and interferes with public safety. Soundbites matter more than sound public policy.

Thus, the House of Representatives recently passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2007, which will probably sail through the Senate as well.

There is little evidence that anyone is being subjected to irrational discrimination based on their genes. Genetic discrimination of any kind is extremely rare.

And on rare occasion, genetic discrimination may be rational, such as when genetic testing reveals that a bus driver is prone to seizures that may cause him to crash the bus he is driving.

But the House has just voted to ban it in essentially all cases, refusing to include a “direct threat” exception to the bill to preserve public safety in scenarios like the bus driver who is prone to seizures.

An employer or insurer is allowed to consider family medical history when it is relevant. How is genetic information any different?

It’s just superstitious fear of new technologies (genetic testing) on the part of Congress.

Only three Congressmen had the good sense to vote against this bill: Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and Ed Royce (R-Cal.).

The bill is discussed by me and other lawyers in the National Law Journal