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Wednesday 08 April 2009

Genetic Discrimination: The Backdoor Route?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 5th March 2009

To many disability rights activists, genetic discrimination is classified as unfinished business for their communities. What about us?

The Human Rights Act 1993 is now almost sixteen years old. It is high time that other antidiscrimination measures were added to it, such as definitive inclusion of gender identity or clarification that the Key administration considers Solicitor General Cullen's earlier legal opinion that read gender identity discrimination into gender discrimination to be viable.

Some disability rights activists also want genetic status added to their section of the HRA. If someone's DNA is used to locate possible causal genetic sequences of physiological anomalies, whether present at birth, or latent until puberty or later in life, then, they argue, this constitutes disability discrimination if it is used to deny employment, accommodation, goods or services to others- notwithstanding Bill of Rights protections against forced medical treatment. At present, the HRA bans discrimination on the basis of physical, psychological, intellectual or other disability, with the exception of insurance policies. However, insurance policies should be based on valid actuarial or statistical data.

I support this move, although whenever I discuss it with friends in the disability rights movement, they bring up the issue of 'gay genes.' If gay genes exist, then is it possible that unregulated genetic screening could be used to reintroduce covert antigay discrimination? Disability rights activists want explicit and stronger safeguards on privacy of medical genetic data, and there's merit to that argument as well, given that privacy and confidentiality provisions are included in the Code of Health and Disability Consumers Rights.

Granted, the Human Genome Project only mapped the human genome recently, and we're still some decades away from precise identification of whether or not there's a semi-causal group of gay genes that partially determine our future sexuality. As with the development of sentient artificial intelligence however, this is one issue that future LGBT communities will probably have to face.

Craig Young - 5th March 2009