Saturday, August 11, 2012
Using 'Right' Rightly, Right?
Over there on that little known social networking website, my friend Bobby commented on one of my posts using the word "right," just like that in quotations, and it got me thinking... so here is my response (slightly edited for the blog format). For some background, the original post was in regards to the police officer in Dallas who was transferred to graveyard shift as a penalty for his heinous crime of eating Chick-fil-a in close proximity to his lesbian co-workers.
One of the problems in this whole issue is the misuse of the term. When the term 'right' is used rightly (pun intended) there must be something behind the right giving it weight and legitimacy. For instance, the issue of civil rights as pertaining to people groups, the most notable being the treatment of African Americans in America, is a simple one. Skin color does not influence rights. Every person is entitled to inalienable rights, those are the rights to life (the right to be born and continue living), liberty (freedom, which means sovereignty over oneself but not complete autonomy since we live in a country with other humans), and the pursuit of happiness (not a blank check to do whatever may make you happy - i.e., if killing people or stealing cookies from Girl Scouts makes you happy , tough luck).
This issue, however, is not so black and white (again, pun intended). Individuals or groups of people don't just get to attach the word 'right' to themselves (i.e., gay rights) and then expect everyone else to rewrite dictionaries in order to accommodate their desires. How ridiculous would it be if 9-year-old's rallied together for 9-year-old rights and expected to be treated as adults and then started staging protests and influencing legislature because they weren't given all the rights of adults? This is preposterous. The gay rights movement is the same. No one is telling them they can't vote, that they have to ride at the back of the bus, or drink from a different water fountain. To compare homosexuals to the African Americans who experienced enslavement and then segregation even after they were "free" is offensive, to say the least.
So, like I said, a big issue here is the misuse of the term 'right'. Rights are either intrinsic or they are legislated. Inalienable (or intrinsic) rights do not include the right for everyone to be joined in holy matrimony. The origin and practice of marriage itself excludes the possibility, thus by definition people cannot marry within their sex. They still have just as much 'right' as everyone else to marry, since marriage is, by definition, between a man and a woman. Any gay or straight man is free to marry any gay or straight woman. There. Equal rights.
So, same-sex marriage is not a right. It just isn't anymore than stealing cookies from Girl Scouts is a right. The other option is to legislate it, but that would entail changing the definition of marriage and symbolically spitting on thousands of years of deeply meaningful and theologically significant tradition, which many people seem to have no problem with, which I suspect is more out of ignorance than pure spite.
The fact is, however you slice it, the right to gay marriage is a myth. Like a said, a right is either intrinsic or legislated. Gay marriage is an oxymoron and therefore is not an intrinsic right. It is also not legal in most places, which means it is not a legislated right. Once it is, and the term has been redefined to include same-sex couples, then it is still only a legislated right which contradicts reality and thousands of years in which the term 'marriage' meant a man and a woman being joined by God in holy matrimony, and expressly excluding, even ignoring the idea of two people of the same sex being joined in the same way.
I am not unsympathetic to same-sex couples. I fully accept that they have the same right to the pursuit of happiness as everyone else. and I understand that many (not all) same-sex couples believe that being married will make them happy. The problem is the same for them as it was for the cube who wanted to be called a sphere. The term simply does not apply.