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- This article is about discrimination in the social science sense. For the act of distinguishing/discriminating between things see distinction, difference, comparison.
To discriminate socially is to make a distinction between people on the basis of class or category without regard to individual merit. Examples include racial, religious, sexual, disability, ethnic, height-related, and age-related discrimination. Distinctions between people which are based just on individual merit (such as personal achievement, skill or ability) are not considered discriminatory.
Social theories such as Egalitarianism claim that social equality should prevail. In some societies, such as the U.S.A., each individual's civil rights include the right to be free from government sponsored social discrimination<ref>Template:Cite web </ref>.
In contrast, conservative writer Matthias Storme has claimed that the freedom of discrimination in human societies is a fundamental human right. Author Hans-Hermann Hoppe, in an essay<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> about his book Democracy: The God That Failed, asserts that a natural social order is characterized by increased discrimination.
 Discrimination and government
Many governments have attempted to reduce discrimination through civil rights legislation, equal opportunity laws and institutionalised policies of affirmative action (called reverse discrimination by its opponents).
Discrimination in some form by governments is almost universal. For example, governments may provide better treatment to citizens than to non-citizens. Unemployed citizens may receive welfare benefits funded by taxpayers, while unemployed non-citizens may be denied such benefits. Governments often have the power to forcefully expel non-citizens but cannot expel citizens. Discrimination based on citizenship status is almost always considered to be legal.
Examples of discrimination by states include: apartheid in South Africa; institutionalized racial segregation in the USA from the Civil War through the 1960s; the "Jewish problem" in Nazi Germany; and reeducation camps in some communist countries.
 Religious discrimination
Template:Main Religious Discrimination is the social differentiation of individuals on the basis of their religious beliefs, faith or affiliation. This is different from racial discrimination, which is based on racial categories.
Many governments in western countries now have laws against discrimination based on religion, though this is not always enforced. For example, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States of America, the EEOC has received more than 800 charge filings alleging religious discrimination by individuals who are or who are perceived to be Muslim, Arabic, Middle Eastern, South Asian or Sikh with the two most common issues being harassment and discharge. Further evidence of post-9/11 America’s unease with Muslims is found in data on their “fit” (or lack thereof) in U.S. society. For example, research conducted by the Level Playing Field Institute and the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut revealed that Muslims were rated very low relative to other racial, ethnic, and religious groups in terms of their fit in the American workplace. Ten percent of survey respondents gave the lowest possible fit rating to Muslim employees (LPFI/CSRA 2003).
An example of religious discrimination by the state is non-Muslims being discriminated against in the few remaining Islamic theocratic states. Jews and Christians have historically had fewer freedoms than Muslim citizens in these states; non-Muslims monotheists have been consigned to the status of dhimmis in some cases. The article on discrimination against non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia discusses this subject in more depth. Marxist states have also discriminated against all religions at some time or another. This continues in North Korea, China and Vietnam, and many former Soviet republics.
Religious students may be said to be discriminated against in some western state schools. For example, names of clubs have been changed due to claims by administrative staff that some part of the name or the symbolism it represents may offend other students, parents, or teachers.
Research shows that non-religious people (atheists, agnostics, etc.) are subject to the most widespread religious discrimination outside the Communist worldTemplate:Citation needed. During his 1988 Presidential campaign, George H. W. Bush stated that atheists should not be considered patriots or citizens. 
 Age discrimination
Template:Main Age discrimination is discrimination against a person or group on the grounds of age. Although theoretically the word can refer to the discrimination against any age group, age discrimination usually comes in one of two forms: discrimination against youth, and discrimination against the elderly.
In many countries, companies more or less openly refuse to hire people above a certain age despite the increasing lifespans and average age of the population. The reasons for this range from vague feelings that younger people are more "dynamic" and create a positive image for the company, to more concrete concerns about regulations granting older employees higher salaries or other benefits without these expenses being fully justified by an older employees' greater experience.
Some underage teenagers consider that they're victims of age discrimination on the grounds that they should be treated more respectfully by adults and not as second-class citizens. Some complain that social stratification in age groups causes outsiders to incorrectly stereotype and generalize the group, for instance that all adolescents are equally immature, violent or rebellious, listen to rock or rap music and do drugs. Some have organized groups against age discrimination.
 Gender discrimination
Template:Main Gender discrimination is any action that grants or denies opportunities, privileges, or rewards to a person just on the basis of their sex.
The United Nations had concluded that women often experience a "glass ceiling" and that there are no societies in which women enjoy the same opportunities as men. The term 'glass ceiling' describes the process by which women are barred from promotion by means of an invisible barrier. In the United States, the Glass Ceiling Commission has stated that between 95 and 97 percent of senior managers in the country's biggest corporations are men.
Also transgendered individuals, both male to female and female to male, experience often discrimination because of their gender identity. This may lead into dismissals, underachieving or dire difficulties on finding a job.
Socially, sexual differences have been used to justify societies in which one sex or the other has been restricted to significantly inferior and secondary roles. While there are non-physical differences between men and women, there is little agreement as to what those differences are.
Legislation to promote gender equality is generally complex and varied, with a wide divergence between different countries. The principal legislation in the UK is found in the Equal Pay Act of 1970 (which provides for equal pay for comparable work) and the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, which makes discrimination against women or men (including discrimination on the grounds of marital status) illegal in the working situation.
 Sexual orientation discrimination
Sexual orientation discrimination is discrimination against individuals, couples or groups based on sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. Essentially, this involves the discrimination of a person who has a same-sex sexual orientation, whether or not they identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Sexual minorities are often seen as undesirable or immoral by one or more social groups and, thus, discrimination against them is frequently codified into law.
As acceptability of sexual orientation varies greatly from society to society, the degree to which discrimination is sanctioned by society also varies greatly. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is often exacerbated by frustration or anger brought about societal changes that seem threatening to some members of society. In particular, changing gender roles and the increased equality afforded women in most societies is perceived as a threat to traditional patriarchal roles. Similarly, sexual minorities can also be viewed as a threat to gender roles that favor male power in a traditional social structure.
During the last century, as a result of greater acceptance and visibility of sexual minorities in most developed countries, discrimination based on sexual orientation is increasingly seen as unjust and, in more and more nations and localities, has been rendered illegal. The Republic of South Africa is the first nation on earth to embed freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation into its constitution. In the United States, 17 states have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation with most laws focusing on freedom from discrimination in the work place, housing and public accommodations. Most of these states exempt religious institutions from these anti-discrimination clauses, and several exempt small businesses.
Historically, conservative religious leaders and organizations have been at the forefront of fighting legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Increasingly, however, progressive religious leaders have joined with gay rights and human rights activists in seeking to overturn laws that sanction this form of discrimination. Some other people, because sexual orientation discrimination is a component of their religious beliefs, claim that such efforts are often a form of religious discrimination.
 Language discrimination
People are sometimes subjected to different treatment because their preferred language is associated with a particular group, class or category. Commonly, the preferred language is just another attribute of separate ethnic groups.
- Level Playing Field Institute and Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut (2003)  The HOW-FAIR study 2003: How opportunities in the workplace and fairness affect intergroup relations. Level Playing Field Institute, San Francisco.
 See also
- Allport's scale
- Institutionalized discrimination
- Intercultural competence
- List of anti-discrimination acts
- Reverse discrimination
- Second-class citizen
 External links
- Human Rights Watch on Israel – State Discrimination in the school system.
- International Heral Tribune on Denmark – Discrimination against Muslims.
- Transgender Workplace Diversity blogbg:Дискриминация
ca:Discriminació cs:Diskriminace da:Diskrimination de:Diskriminierung es:Discriminación fr:Discrimination he:אפליה hu:Hátrányos megkülönböztetés nl:Discriminatie ja:差別 pl:Dyskryminacja (psychologia społeczna) pt:Discriminação ru:Дискриминация simple:Discrimination sk:Diskriminácia (znevýhodňovanie) sl:Diskriminacija sr:Дискриминација sv:Diskriminering zh:歧視