Conservative columnist Walter Williams compared LGBT people to smokers and obese people to suggest they should pay more for life insurance.
The George Mason University economist and Rush Limbaugh guest host noted that some insurance companies charged lower premiums to customers who “hadn’t made a life-shortening lifestyle choice” – such as giving up smoking and losing weight.
Williams cited a decades-old study published by the International Journal of Epidemiology and frequently cited by anti-LGBT activists that found HIV reduced the life expectancy of gay men by eight to 20 years – although he did not mention HIV or AIDS influenced the findings.
“That’s a lifestyle shortening of life expectancy greater than obesity and tobacco use,” Williams wrote. “Yet one never hears of insurance companies advertising lower premiums for heterosexual men. You say, ‘That would be discrimination.’ You’re right, but why is it acceptable for insurance companies to discriminate against smokers and the obese but not homosexuals?”
The study’s authors have noted in recent years that HIV/AIDS treatment has improved greatly since the study was conducted in the early 1990s, and they have complained about previous attempts to link their findings to anti-LGBT platforms.
Williams does note their recent observations, which he characterizes as a politicized retreat from scientifically valid findings.
“The publication had to soft-pedal its study results because of complaints that pointing out life expectancy differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals had become fuel for homophobia,” Williams wrote. “The bottom line is that homosexuals have far greater political power and sympathy than smokers and the obese.”
A more recent study by the Mailman School of Public Health found that LGBT people who lived in communities with high levels of anti-gay prejudice live an average of 12 years less than those who live in less prejudiced communities.
Another recent study found that conservative attitudes increased the risk of suicide for LGBT teens by 20 percent.
While smoking and even obesity can be eliminated through individual actions, Williams fails to note the mountains of scientific evidence against conversion therapy for LGBT people.
He spends the rest of his column, titled “Things I don’t understand,” complaining about the necessity of warning labels on products and devices commonly understood to be dangerous.