Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dignified Response

Another day, another big Supreme Court decision. This time it was Gay Marriage. Feel free at this point to move about this great country of ours and marry whomever you would like. With access to affordable health care and the right to bear arms. It's all so constitutional, it hardly seems like fun anymore. As mentioned yesterday, none of this comes easily. For every man or woman who is rejoicing at the opportunity to marry a man or woman, there is a man or woman who is profoundly upset at this addition to our civil rights. Change is hard.

"The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away." These words came from Clarence Thomas, in his dissenting opinion on marriage equality. His argument was that there is no dignity clause in the U.S. Constitution. It is not, in Justice Thomas' opinion, our government's job to bestow or take away dignity. You remember dignity, don't you? From the Latin "dignitas" meaning "worthiness." In Enlightenment- era discussions of inherent, inalienable rights would have included this concept. John Locke had three. Life: everyone is entitled to live once they are created. Liberty: everyone is entitled to do anything they want to so long as it doesn't conflict with the first right. Estate: everyone is entitled to own all they create or gain through gift or trade so long as it doesn't conflict with the first two rights. Sound familiar? How about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights"(R)ecognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." 
Separating dignity from civil rights seems like a very interesting direction to go for Justice Thomas. It is consistent, so I guess we can respect that. But when it comes to dignity, I'm not sure Clarence is the voice I'm going to listen to first.  
And that's what makes America such a great town. We are all free to have our opinions. And marry whomever we choose. With dignity. 

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