When Does a Right become a Right?


Slavery officially ended, at least on the books in America, in 1863. The 19th Amendment finally ended decades of struggling, allowing women the right to vote. Now, in 2015, gays received a federal blessing with the removal of restrictions on same-sex marriage. All were celebrated as victories for the activists trying to push these agendas toward mainstream acceptance. The question is why did they have to fight for them in the first place?

Rights come in two varieties: natural and legal. Jefferson’s preamble to the Declaration of Independence creates the platform by which the United States would assert their liberation from the tyranny of Great Britain by saying that we are all born with natural rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Legal rights are those created under social contract theory – the fundamental balance between what rights people surrender in return for the benefits of a larger and orderly society.

Therein lies the problem.

Take a survey of all our systems of law: common law, civil law, criminal law, corporate law, real estate law, biblical law, maritime law, tax law, Hammurabi’s code, you might even consider the Ten Commandments. Over the last six thousand years, we’ve been so busy legislating what people can and can’t do that we’ve lost sight of what simple, natural rights look like. At best, we have some semblance of civilization (not really – just read the news every day). At worst, we have global disparity and the polarization of people over every belief, custom, and way of life.

It comes down to agendas. Get enough people together with a similar agenda and the life of a natural right is threatened. It’s the might-makes-right sickness. News flash: the majority IS NOT always right. There should never have been a law restricting same-sex marriage. If two people find a connection with another of the same-sex, how can anyone honestly object? Why should anyone care if two women kiss, or two men hold hands? It’s a natural right. Why don’t women receive equal pay? It’s a natural right. Instead of voting for new laws, we should be looking more toward removing statutes, especially the ones that offer benefits to smaller segments of society to the deficit of everyone else. (IRS, are you listening?) We should be re-examining the ways in which our society is suppressing our natural rights.

My fifteen-year-old son, Ian, phrased it correctly for me. He said: “how embarrassing humans are to have just allowed gay marriage, instead of how it should’ve been a human right from the beginning.”  So today, on this July 4th, I can rest thinking that perhaps there is some hope for the future after all.