Sunday, January 11, 2009

You have the right

"Rights" are one of the most overworked topics in today's discourse both in the media and in the courts. In examining the United State's Constitution it is interesting to see where the word "right" or "rights" is used. Here is a compilation of the places and context of the words:

Section 8: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

That's it. One instance and that reference is to patents and copyrights. You may wish to see an online high resolution scan of the original document.

Then where then does this idea of constitutional rights come from? The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution are called the Bill of Rights. Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist No. 84, that Bills of rights are in their origin, stipulations between kings and their subjects, abridgments of prerogative in favor of privilege, reservations of rights not surrendered to the prince. Such was "Magna Carta" obtained by the Barons, swords in hand, from King John. It is and was implicit in the concept of "rights" that those given rights would have concomitant responsibilities and duties.

The very first of those Amendments states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." In each of these categories, those given rights were implicitly given responsibilities.

I would suggest you read all twenty-seven amendments. If you look very carefully through the amendments you may find that certain "rights" commonly referred to by the media, are not mentioned at all such as the so-called right to privacy. This type of "right" comes from either the popular perception or from subsequent court decisions or legislation. The history of the evolution of these additional rights could each be the subject of a lengthy study. The Framers of the Constitution and its Amendments took into consideration that other rights could be considered. In this regard, it is important to consider the wording of the Ninth Amendment. "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

By focusing on rights to the exclusion of responsibilities, our modern society has moved far from the equity and respect for individuals envisioned by the Framers of our Constitution. Although certain major issues involving the dignity of our nation's citizens, like slavery and women's suffrage were omitted from consideration originally, those glaring errors were rectified, although the process, in the case of slavery, resulted in the American Civil War. The rights addressed in the Constitutional Amendments, almost entirely, with participation in the processes of voting and government administration and finance. The Amendments are not directed at individual or personal issues. The only time an amendment dealt with a social issue was Amendment 18 which was repealed by Amendment 21 having to do with Prohibition.

The present movements to increase various "rights", including those directed at same sex marriage, have moved out of the realm of dignity and the consideration of the participation of individuals in the governmental process, into the realm of social engineering. It is not so much that the new rights are intended to rectify long standing wrongs, they are more designed to remake society in the image of those contending for additional privileges. We are now more focused on labels than the duties and obligations as citizens. Especially those advocating same sex marriage are not intending by their search for additional rights to increase their own responsibilities, in fact, they wish to abdicate any responsibility at all, for their actions, for the impact their choices have on our society and the impact on our children. Their claims are not in furtherance of social welfare, but of their own personal gratification and social acceptance.

What they are seeking is not equal rights, but privilege and avoidance of consequences. They wish absolution of their responsibility for the destruction of the nuclear family and more than equality, they wish to impose their lack of morality and family values on the rest of society. They are not seeking rights. They are seeking privilege. By forcing this issue into the realm of Constitutional law, those opposing same sex marriage and other such experiments in social engineering, are left with the sole option of opposing those efforts on a Constitutional level. Although the Constitution and its Amendments have not historically addressed such issues, the passage of state laws allowing same sex marriage and judicial decisions sanctioning same sex marriage and overturning state constitutional amendments, has forced this social, religious and moral issue into becoming a Constitutional issue.


  1. Although I agree with your arguments, there are some omissions. The same sex marriage advocates continually refer to the fourteenth amendment, couching the idea of same sex marriage as equal protection under the law. Your article, while excellent, doesn't address that particular interpretation. Also, the California Supreme Court invented a "right of same sex marriage" based on the fundamental right of the pursuit of happiness. The question then becomes, is marriage a fundamental right or a civil right?

  2. I don't know if you've seen Thomas Sowell's essay entitled The Right to Win, but it is right up this post's alley:

    "Among the many new 'rights' being conjured out of thin air, a new one seems to be a 'right' to win."

  3. "is marriage a fundamental right?"

    Yes, it is. Fundamental rights are God-given rights and marriage is something that God established. The problem is that some people want marriage to mean something other than between male and female.