Thursday, August 24, 2006

Unintended Consequences

Systems Thinking 101 introduces the idea of unintended consequences... the encouragement is always to think carefully about how solving one problem doesn't create another (maybe bigger) problem or set of problems. There's a great example of unintended consequences in today's news. The Seattle Times reports that Washington State's new law that gives special protected status to sexual orientation is being tested in an interesting way. The suit being filed is coming from a straight woman who is suing because she is being discriminated against because of her sexual orientation. The argument goes like this
  1. Her employer offers health benefits to unmarried partners who are of the same gender
  2. She wants health benefits for her live-in boyfriend
  3. The company is discriminating against her by denying her request based on her sexual orientation (if she was shacking up with a woman, the company would gladly pay)

Makes sense to me. Problem is, a ruling in favor of this plaintiff could establish a precedent that would throw most employers in the state into significant financial distress.

I collected signatures to get a referendum on the ballot to get rid of this misguided law... but enough signatures were not collected so now HB2661 is the law of the land. Many characterized us who signed the petition as closed minded, homophobic, bigots. Maybe a few people will now see that at least some of us who signed were just thinking a bit about the larger systems (you know the systems of marriage and family that have served our society well for thousands of years).