“It’s wrong to vote on rights”

As you may know, Valerie and I live in the only state in the USA in which a party of seven, by a majority of one, has elected to modify the human condition by changing the definition of a single word. Massachusetts has, for several years now, by court edict, granted to homosexual couples the right to “marry.” It doesn’t bother them at all that this is ontologically impossible, on the level of granting fish the right to breathe by changing the definition of the word “lung.” A homosexual union cannot be a marriage because marriage entails a commitment to become a family by raising together the children that come from the union. Nevertheless, Massachusetts now hands out marriage certificates to couples of the same sex and has been forced to remove the words “father” and “mother” from birth certificates, replacing them with the words “Parent A” and “Parent B.”

How long this kind of nonsense will continue is a anyone’s guess. But organizations like VoteOnMarriage.org have been steadily working on the only legal recourse available: to change the Massachusetts constitution to make explicit what was originally assumed: that a marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. The effort has been surprisingly difficult. The amendment process in Massachusetts is particularly complicated – it requires a referendum and two separate votes in congress. In addition, many people in the MA congress are unwilling to even consider putting the issue on the ballot, and are willing to violate their own constitutional procedures to avoid it.

In addition, I’m finding, there are a large number of people who are very interested in insulting both their creator and human intelligence with a single word. So there has begun a campaign to bring the amendment process to a halt. One such organization is MassEquality, which I’ve just discovered. Apparently they believe the best arguments should be self-contradictory.

MySpace has a habit of inflicting obnoxious, or offensive ads on their members to pay for their services. For over a year now, when ever I visit that site, I’ve been blasted by large, unavoidable, sexually suggestive ads from an up-and-coming dating service. Valerie has never been so afflicted, presumably because she’s female and therefore immune to such attacks (we’ll leave aside the fact that, if they can trouble themselves to filter ads by gender, they could go one step further and filter by marital status). Today, though, I was spared the dating ads and instead inflicted by a cycle of quotes opining on the amendment question:

“Who are we to judge others?” “Who are we to vote on other people’s rights?” “It’s discrimination.” And then the zinger: “It’s Wrong to vote on rights.” The absurdity is so intrinsic that it’s difficult to pick apart. I’ll leave to you the the questions of judging others, “who are we… other people,” and discrimination. But voting on rights I have to take a swing at.

At it’s core, of course, it’s true that it’s wrong to vote on rights, if by that you mean that human rights cannot be *created* and especially cannot be created by popular vote. The rubric of rights came as a result of a kind of political philosophy called “natural law” which asserts among other things “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” The key word here is “unalienable.” The word means that human rights, true and proper, are intrinsic to the human condition and were put there by our Creator when we were fashioned in the image of God. Without a God, without an understanding of teleology, or purpose, the entire argument of rights collapses. If human nature can be changed, so can the rights attendant to it. However, given that there *is* a creator, and given that humans *do* have design and purpose, the rights attendant to that purpose cannot be created or destroyed, except by that same creator.

But if rights can’t be created or destroyed, what’s with the Bill of Rights, and other rights found in the U.S. Constitution? While human rights cannot be alienated, they can be violated. A right that has been violated is called a wrong. The whole system of the Ten Commandments can be predicated from this, particularly if you assume that God also has rights. To violate those rights is to do wrong. The bill of rights is nothing else than a forced recognition of certain rights that are particularly prone to violation by government. And how were those rights recognized? Well of course, we voted on them.

So yes, of course, it’s wrong to assume that we can simply create human rights. Are we God that we should do this? But voting on rights does nothing of the sort. To vote in a right is simply to force the government to recognize what already *is* and *has been* from the beginning. And of course it’s wrong to strike out a true right from the law. To do so would be to make the government blind to morality. But what if I tried the opposite? What if I added a right that was no right at all? What if I added something that was ontologically impossible, say the right of one human being to “own” another? Is it wrong to manufacture a right that isn’t there?

You may think that I’m using a bad analogy to bring up slavery, but I don’t think so. Every right that we attempt to manufacture, but really isn’t there, inevitably violates some real right that God created. In the case of homosexual marriage, it’s the right of a child that’s violated – the right to have both a mother and a father. A right heretofore unacknowledged, because up till now, governments weren’t in the habit of violating it.

But of course, all the philosophy above is really beside the point, which is a simple absurdity. Seven men in robes voted on rights in Massachusetts in 2004, and awarded something that is impossible to do, except on paper. The vast majority of citizens in this state believe it was a bad decision and want to vote things back the other way. 170,000 signatures were acquired on a petition that legally needed only about a third as many. Now MassEquality wants to assert that it’s wrong to vote on such things. Rights are inviolable, and shouldn’t be directly addressed in a constitution. This puts them in the position of contradicting themselves about as fast as they can speak:

“It’s wrong to vote on rights. No one’s ever voted on rights before. So vote ‘no.’ “

3 thoughts on ““It’s wrong to vote on rights””

  1. I would assume that Massachusetts has an over-ride ability built in, as many states do. For instance, in Oklahoma, if a petition with 10% of the population is collected and verified, the people can bypass the legislature and executive branch of the state’s government and force the election board to place something onto the next general election ballot. While something of that level is defiantly a lot of work, one thing I’ve noticed is how readily people are to sign a political petition without even knowing what they are signing. I see it outside Wal*Mart a few times each year. If nothing else, it is a grassroots method to force the issue into the hands of the general electorate and out of the hands of the politically motivated…

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  2. Dear Daniel, others.

    The Massachusetts Constitution does not explicitly provide an override ability that you talk about. Article 48 pertains to the voting procedures in the Constitutional process, stating that the Massachusetts legislature shall vote on all initiative petitions. The Supreme Judicial Court (the same court in the Goodrigde Decision) ruled that the legislature would be violating the Massachusetts Constitution if it did not vote on the Marriage Amendment, but also said that it did not have the authority to compel the legislature to vote.

    The Marriage Amendment recieved 62 votes on January 2nd (12 more than was needed), so the amendment passed the first Constitutional Convention.

    The next Constitutional Convention is next week, on Wednesday, May 9th. The Amendment will need a minimum of 50 yes votes, so that it can be given to the people in a statewide vote. The legislature is required to vote, but either will vote to hold the convention, or will vote a recess (which will move the convention to another day).

    If you would like to help, you can contact your State Senator and your State Representative, and ask them to do two of the following: 1. Vote NO on any recess or attempt to block the vote, and allow an Up or Down vote, and 2. Ask your Rep and Senator to Vote YES on the Marriage Amendment or encourage him or her if he/she voted YES on January 2nd. Also call Senate President Therese Murray at 617-722-1330 or Email : Therese.Murray@state.ma.us. She is the presiding officer at the Constitutional Convention.

    If you do not know who your State Rep and State Senator is, please visit http://www.voteonmarriage.org website, and they will help you ID your Rep and Senator. They can also provide more information on the Constitutional process.

    Thank you.

    Jonathan E. Ring
    Essex County Field Director
    Marriage & Family Chapters, VOM.org

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