College of Bangor: Special Rights or Civil Rights?

Prepared comments by John C. Rankin

[Mars Hill forum #26 [out of numerical sequence]: October 17, 2005, College of Bangor, Bangor, ME: Special Rights or Civil Rights? Panel including State Representative Sean Faircloth (D-Bangor).

Good afternoon.

How do we define special rights and civil rights?

The 1996 Romer v. Evans U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that Colorado law could not have an “animus” against homosexual persons as a special class. It could not deny the use of “sexual orientation” language in matters of non-discrimination.

In the 2004 Goodridge decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, same-sex marriage was elevated to the status of a “basic” or “fundamental” right, indeed, to that of an unalienable right. But it did so without any definition of civil rights rooted in the Massachusetts Constitution or its history.

And Goodridge also based its logic on the prior Lawrence v. Texas U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared homosexual conduct a legal right.

Here in Maine, the People’s Veto seeks to overturn an amended law. “Sexual orientation” is specially listed, having been added to an existing list of eight other groups of people who should receive equal protection.

But why identify nine groups of people, and what will prevent the number from growing? Since each group listed claims a special identity, and the law mentions them specially, how is this not an issue of special rights?

Such group identity equals a classic Balkanization of civil rights, where one group is pitted against another. Each group demands rights for itself, isolating people into warring tribes of narrow self-interest.

In contrast, our national identity is rooted the affirmation that God gives unalienable rights to all persons (as individuals), uniting our nation, not by race, clan or any other group identity, but by a powerful idea.

Let me make four historical points:

  1. In the United States, the civil rights which we all enjoy are rooted in “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” in the unalienable rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.
  2. The unique source for unalienable rights is the Creator, the God of the Bible.
  3. The Creator defines true human sexuality as the marriage of one man and one woman in mutual fidelity.
  4. In human history, no society rooted in the approval of homosexuality has ever produced unalienable rights for the larger social order.

Do any of us not want his or her life, liberty and economic freedom protected from others harming, depriving or stealing from us? Yet, is there any other Source for these rights apart from the God of the Bible? I discussed this once in a public forum with Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and she knows of no other source. And the ACLU is the world’s largest and wealthiest group of lawyers who are motivated to find a different source. Civil rights in this nation do not exist apart from the prior unalienable rights which transcend human government. The only alternative is the tyranny of might makes right.

In the face of sexual orientation laws and same-sex marriage, let me ask four questions:

  1. Are civil rights being redefined?
  2. If so, why?
  3. If so, what is the new basis for these rights?
  4. What are the consequences?

The “civil right” of homosexual conduct or identity cannot be rooted in the unalienable rights given by the Creator.

Thus, by listing homosexual conduct or identity as something protected by law, are civil rights being redefined to suit the homosexual-rights movement alone, and not for all people equally? And if so, what is the new basis for these rights that can serve all people equally, and not just the homosexual-rights movement alone?

As a Christian, my unalienable rights are not based on my Christian identity – but on the prior reality of my humanity. For persons who identify themselves as homosexual, their unalienable rights are not based accordingly – but on the prior reality of their humanity.

I celebrate these unalienable rights for all people equally, as people, regardless of how much their sexual identities or religious beliefs may differ from my own. I do not desire one inch of greater liberty to say what I believe than the liberty I first commend to those who disagree with me. We all have the liberty to seek to change the laws – but none of us have the right to change the law apart from persuading the consent of the governed. Such freedom of dissent in a civil society comes only from the God of the Bible, not from any pagan or secular source.

All people are made in the image of God; we all seek peace, order, stability and hope; to live, to love, to laugh and to learn. Far deeper than differing group identities, all people are people. All persons deserve individual respect, and not to be labeled by some external, and oftentimes, transitory group identity.

In the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, it says that no person can be deprived of life, liberty or property apart from due process of law. Why can’t we keep it that simple? All people have the same comprehensive unalienable rights. Why condescend to group warfare where your own identity gets swallowed up by the agenda of some political pied piper?

This is a large subject, and my review has been necessarily brief. I leave my dissenters with these four questions:

  1. In this nation, do civil rights come from any source but unalienable rights?
  2. Does the historical Source for unalienable rights matter?
  3. If we define rights according to our own special group identities, is this not a prescription for war? And,
  4. Does the homosexual-rights movement have a definition for civil rights that includes all people equally, especially for their dissenters?

Thank you.