There was an interesting story a few months ago here in Brooklyn about a privately owned company that serves the public that was engaging in discrimination against women.
Women who ride the B110 bus in Brooklyn can’t sit where they want unless they’re okay with being berated by Orthodox Jewish men, even though technically the B110 is a public bus.
The B110, which travels between Williamsburg and Borough Park is open to anyone, has a route number, and goes to city bus stops. However, the line is run by a private company under a decades-old agreement with the city, and since the bus is designed to serve the Hasidic community in the area, a board of rabbis sets the rules. They’ve decreed that women should sit in the back and men should sit in the front to avoid contact betwen members of the opposite sex.
When it was exposed that a bunch of religious fanatics were doing this, the city came down on them and said, “God or no god, you can’t discriminate against women if you’re serving the public.”
Catholic hospitals and universities are public institutions that serve the public and hire from the public, unlike private religious institutions. As such, they are being held to the same standard as all other public institituions in that they aren’t allowed to deny their female employees the right to full health care coverage, no matter how much the Pope is mad that you’re fucking and he’s not. (Seriously, he didn’t have to take a vow of celibacy. Why do the rest of us have to pay for his choices?) The Obama administration told them they aren’t allowed to metaphorically send their female employees to the back of the bus. That supposedly serious people are treating this like an issue is baffling to me.
What I want to know is where are all the concern trolls on this bus issue? If waving the Bible around is reason enough for a public instititution, even those that take federal dollars like universities and hospitals do, to discriminate against women, then I want to see some consistency here. I want E.J. Dionne to claim that New York’s Jewish population is going to rise up en masse in protest because a very small minority of religious fanatics want the right to treat women like shit. I want all the liberal dudes hand-wringing right now about how Obama went a step too far to expand that argument, and talk about why certain buses that serve the public should be able to force women to sit in the back to appease the fanatics’ religious sensibilities. Riddle me this: if giving Catholic-owned businesses the right to discriminate against women is freedom of religion, then why isn’t it okay when bus companies have signs requiring women to sit in the back to appease a small segment of the Jewish population?