Human Rights Cannot be Legislated Away

(published Circleville Herald 11 May 2012)

Supreme Court Justice Taneyís defense of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 is shocking to us today. The Dred Scott decision allowed Southern slave holders to pursue escaped slaves into Northern states and forcibly drag them back to the Hell that was the South. The Courtís decision also criminalized any Northern citizens who aided slaves evading capture. Taney wrote that the Founding Fathers in the Constitution codified that slaves are ď so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.Ē


No doubt many a Southern slave holder was an otherwise decent human being. I am sure they loved their wives and children and were kind to strangers, yet they quoted Scripture justifying slavery and later segregation ( and there is plenty of Scripture to go around justifying both practices). My own grandmother from Murfreesboro, Tennessee believed fervently that 1960ís civil rights laws were unconstitutional expansions of Federal power that trampled on the God-given rights of her neighbors to discriminate against whomever they chose, even quoting Genesis 9:27 as Godís support for hateful apartheid.  Yet, she couldnít have been kinder to my siblings and I.  I have trouble reconciling this kindly image of my maternal grandmother with the hate-filled and violent politics she espoused.


Similarly I have trouble reconciling the kindliness of many Evangelical Christians I have known with their hatred of homosexuals. It is even worse when they claim they donít hate LGBT persons, yet they want to enshrine in our Constitution language that codifies our LGBT neighbors as permanent second class citizens. Second class, perhaps even third or fourth class,  as anti-gay marriage laws effectively say that gay citizens cannot choose whom and how to love in a way that is as natural to them as heterosexual behavior is to the majority of us. I am sorry, the two positions cannot co-exist. One cannot say he loves all of Godís children, then turn around and expand government into enforcing oneís own misguided understanding of human sexuality, especially when the pain and suffering, often to the point of suicide, inflicted onto our LGBT brethren is undeniable. I often ask Evangelicals if women speak or teach in their Church when Scripture clearly prohibits such equanimity.


In years hence, our children, including the Millenial generation already among us, shall regard the North Carolina marriage amendment as well as Ohioís gay marriage law of 2004  as reprehensible and abhorrent as The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. They shall wonder at how prejudiced, backwards and just mean-spirited we were. Human rights, civil rights are not subject to being granted or denied by legislation. The majority does not have the right to limit the human and civil rights of the minority.


Praises to President Obama who has finally spoken in support of full marriage rights for all of our citizens. Letís root out all political and economic prejudices/policies that diminish the humanity of anyone, especially the least among us. Health care, a living wage, education without becoming an indentured servant for life to a high interest rate college loan, truly equal opportunity in the marketplace and before the law, fair elections, freedom to love and marry: these are American faith and family values. Who is my neighbor for whose well-being I am responsible?  Answer: Everyone is my neighbor, with no, repeat no exceptions.


-  Brad Cotton, M.D.