Hooters, Homosexual Rights, and the EEOC

Ken Masugi

February 1, 1996

Now that the jokes about the government’s campaign against Hooters Restaurants have grown old, it’s time to look more seriously at the situation. The lawsuit against Hooters has serious implications for federal extension, by bureaucratic fiat, of civil rights laws to cover homosexuals. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions (EEOC) has charged the raunchy restaurant chain with sex discrimination, which is illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Hooters, by hiring buxom women as waitresses, has allegedly discriminated–against men, who were being denied equal employment opportunity!

Hooters itself insists that the "primary function" of the Hooters Girls is not food service but "providing vicarious sexual recreation." For its alleged violation of civil rights laws, penalties may amount To at least $22 million in back pay for men discriminated against, including and education fund to enhance the skills of Hooters’ presumably inept male waiters.

As anyone can plainly see, the "sex discrimination" charge is a pretext–by women attorneys at the EEOC who wanted to strike a blow against an institution they regard as degrading. I doubt that Hooters, albeit vulgar, sinks to the level of pornography. But even if it did the feminist exploitation of the bureaucracy scarcely justifies a distortion of the law as originally intended. Such serious issues should not be guided by the whims and tastes of federal officials but rather by the law, preferably at a local level.

Bureaucratic aggressiveness is already responsible for affirmative action policies which have mandated quota hiring of minorities and women to remedy discrimination–when the Civil Rights Act would appear to explicitly prohibit such discriminatory preferences.

As the Hooters joke has not grown old (and sour) enough, consider the following: In October President Clinton voiced his support for extension of federal civil rights laws to cover homosexuals. The mind reels when considering how federal officials who invented racial preferences might interpret such a law, whether applied to Hooters or a grade school.

Moreover, even in the absence of new legislation, some lawyers now at the EEOC regard their mandate to combat discrimination based on sex to include discrimination based on sexual orientation. Such a "right" can be invented by creative legal interpretation of long-established law. After all, it worked in the case of affirmative action quotas, and it may work against Hooters. If Hooters’ failure to hire male waiters is sex discrimination, perhaps the category of sex discrimination causes can be stretched even further, to include homosexuals.

Thus the circle is complete: In the federal government’s most important civil rights enforcement agency, the moral indignation of feminist attorneys against sexually provocative waitresses go hand-in-hand with other attorneys’ moral indifference to (or even endorsement of ) homosexual rights. Puritanism and promiscuity march forward together. Under the aegis of the bureaucratic stated enforcing the most moral legislation of the twentieth century, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, all moral distinctions are leveled.

Given the recent record of the federal government, I scarcely look forward to a new federal agency dedicated to facing the real problem here–restoring a healthy notion of human sexuality.

On Principle Editor Ken Masugi was a special assistant to the Chairman of the EEOC when the Hooters investigation began. Excerpts reprinted from the Cleveland Plain Dealer of Dec. 2, 1995.