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The Declaration Philosophy: Part IV – The amorality of rights

By Linda A. Prussen-Razzano
web posted August 4, 2003

Read the first part of Linda's series here, the second here and the third here.

At its very essence, freedom is amoral. To be truly free, freedom allows for any and all choices. Rights are inherent freedoms; hence, they are also amoral. How people chose to exercise those freedoms depends largely on their own morality.

Historically, Rights were recognized as freedoms, but freedoms that came with responsibilities. The responsibilities Society attaches to Rights are a direct reflection of its collective morality.

To safeguard against the abuse and misuse of Rights, and to protect the Rights of others, the State establishes constructs to guide public and private behavior. These constructs, known as laws, reflect the collective morality of Society. Although Rights remain immovable, constructs are subject to change based on prevailing moral norms.

It will come as no surprise an amoral or immoral Society will have few responsibilities attached to its freedoms and permissive laws.

While a great many people follow the moral norms established through their religion, others who do not practice a religion follow similar moral norms based on their personal sense of right and wrong. Further, in circumstances where religious doctrines would deny a person or group of persons their inherent Rights, the State has an obligation to discount them.

As discussed under Section III, one of the greatest threats facing us today is the propensity to presume everything is a "Right." This is most easily exemplified in the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Texas' sodomy laws. Almost immediately, newspapers were filled with articles questioning whether gay marriages were soon to follow.

Sexuality and emotion is an integral component of our humanity. It not only partly defines who we are but influences how we act and react with others in Society. We have a Right to share our body with one partner, many partners, or no partners (this does not presume a Right to coerce, force, manipulate or otherwise violate another person in pursuit of sexual satisfaction, or to engage in intercourse with a child, person, or creature incapable of consenting. All of these would violate their Rights).

If viewed from the standpoint of freedom and equality, then the act of consensual sex between adult homosexuals is as much a Right as the act of consensual sex between adult heterosexuals. Whether one chooses to engage in sexual activity in a monogamous relationship with the blessings of marriage, in violation of their marriage vows, outside of marriage altogether, or with multiple partners, is a matter of morality. Hence, the responsibilities attached to sexual activity are a direct result of the collective moral conscience of a Society.

Unlike sexuality, marriage is not a Right. Marriage is a construct of the State, recognized for thousands of years as the most favorable setting for stable communities, the procreation and nurturing of children, and the development of a constructive Society. One does not have a Right to be married, to have their lover recognized in the same manner as a spouse, or to have their relationship acknowledged formally by the State.

The State, in response to the prevailing moral norms of Society, will recognize only those marriages it deems acceptable.

Because constructs are more easily manipulated than Rights, news articles questioning the introduction of gay marriages were not wild speculation. Should prevailing moral norms change, gay marriages may soon be recognized by the State. In some parts of the country, they already are.

Typically, as a courtesy, States recognize marriages performed in other States as legal and binding; however, the majority of States have passed laws specifically prohibiting local governments from recognizing any marriage that falls outside the traditional man and woman. In the event that the prevailing moral norms change, these laws can be overturned. Should prevailing moral norms continue to embrace traditional marriages, laws recognizing gay marriages may also be eliminated on the same grounds.

If laws prohibiting gay marriages are not overturned, one can anticipate that a lawsuit will follow, probably on the grounds of equal protection or a violation of civil rights.

Should this issue advance again to the Supreme Court, how they decide it will determine whether they understand the difference between Rights and constructs. If they decide that homosexuals have a right to marry each other, they will have created a right where none existed. If they decide that homosexuals do not have a right to marry each other, they will have acknowledged the construct nature of marriage and preserved the Rights of the individual states and the will of its people.

Linda Prussen-Razzano is frequent contributor to Enter Stage Right and a number of other online magazines.

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