Human Rights Can’t be Left to the States

I’m going to try to keep this short and simple.

Either I am a person, and thus have the same unalienable and legal rights as other citizens of my country, or I’m not.

This is not a State’s Rights issue. This is a Human Rights issue.

As “One nation, under God” we have to decide if we really believe what our founders proclaimed when they declared independence from England and stated,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…

Now, at the time that this was written – women were not people. We were property. Blacks were not people, they were property. Browns were not people, they were barbarians, savages and animals. Gays were also not people, because, you know, they didn’t exist. (Ahem.) So “Men” really meant, straight white dudes who owned property. Yes, our nation began as a plutocratic oligarchy. (A nation ruled by the rich few, for those whose Latin is a little rusty.)

But, times have changed a little since then. And “Men” now includes all men regardless of the color of their skin (at least on paper.), and in this country, it mostly includes women, in theory, though not so much on paper. (Although, we are allowed to vote, so if we all rise up together, perhaps we can change that…) And sometimes it includes gays, if they ask nicely and don’t want to get married. In fact, in many people’s minds “Men” in that context has come to simply mean “Humans”.

With these changes, slowly, but surely our Republic has inched ever closer toward Democracy.

Yet, whenever those of us who are not propertied straight white males ask for full, legal acknowledgement of our basic humanity, confirmation that we are, in fact, citizens born with the same unalienable rights and the associated full legal rights that come with them, we are told that our rights and equality are a matter for the states to determine.

Gay marriage? State’s Rights Issue.

Women’s Reproductive Rights and choices? State’s Rights Issue.

And now even skin color is becoming a State’s Rights Issue as more and more states claim the power to ID brown-skinned people without cause, or disenfranchise people with Spanish last names, or remove non-whites from voter lists.

These are not state’s issues. My liberty isn’t up for discussion, debate or deliberation. And I shouldn’t have to move to another state in order to have civil liberties and exercise my human rights (As adopted by the USA in 1948).

It actually is the role of the FEDERAL government to assure and protect my individual liberty and rights.

I know that the Equal Rights Amendment STILL hasn’t passed, granting me actual full citizenship and humanity under the law.

And I know that there are people who argue that women, gays, and browns aren’t covered by the 14th Amendment.

But again, I say – either all human beings in this country are equal – under the law, under God and in Nature, no matter what state we live in – or, our entire nation is built on a a house of cards.

I get frustrated when I see this Group Of People who would like to keep personal, individual freedom for themselves, while excluding others, as if somehow sharing freedom lessens it…

By deferring to the states, and allowing them to make legal decisions about the equality of individual citizens, they are abdicating their responsibility to uphold the fundamental American principle of “Liberty and Justice for ALL.”

I keep getting told by people who are voting for this group that it isn’t really about taking away individual liberty, it’s about money and taxes and deficits. As if somehow the rights of women, and gays, and browns, and blacks, and our children cost more to maintain than the rights of white, straight, propertied adult males. Or as if individual liberty is less important than not paying taxes.

Here’s the thing – to us “others”, it’s also about money. Because if we aren’t full people, if we don’t have the same basic human and legal rights as every other American, then… the money doesn’t matter. If we don’t have the same full say in how we live our lives, who we love, when and how we start our family and the environment that we raise them in… Then the rest is a moot point anyway.

If you want to talk to me about how paying less taxes is going to help my country succeed and move forward, go ahead. I’ll listen just as soon as we’re standing on equal legal footing.

Yesterday I cast my ballot for education, women, children, men, gays, straights, human rights, the environment, and the future, which is to say, freedom – for ALL citizens, regardless of the state they live in, the parents they were born to, or the genes they were born with.

What are you voting for this season?

Feeling Free?

How free are you?



Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

16 responses to “Human Rights Can’t be Left to the States

  1. Karen

    This leaves me standing on my chair/soapbox again. My reply to your “feminism” post was a little delayed, but so relevant to this that I must post again:

    NC just passed “A Woman’s Right To Know” due to take effect at the end of October, but state is being sued by ACLU and Planned Parenthood to overturn. “The measure requires doctors to read state-approved information on adoptions and alternatives to a patient seeking an abortion 24 hours in advance. Before the procedure, a woman would also have to get an ultrasound and either listen to the fetal heartbeat or sign an affidavit indicating she refused to do so.”

    “The bill makes no exceptions for rape, incest, terminal pregnancies, or pediatric patients. It also makes it easier for the patient or the father of the unborn child – even if the father is a rapist – to sue a doctor who fails to fulfill each requirement of the law.”

    What’s happening on the state levels in SO important, but often flies under the radar because our news is more focused on national politics. Please take the time to know what’s happening in your states. Stepping down from my chair/soapbox for the night…

  2. Pam Hogle

    Great post. Thanks. Not that I needed convincing J

  3. Well said. Our elected officials SHOULD want to protect our rights instead of taking them away. I am astonished (and baffled) that any woman would vote for folks whose explicit political platform is to take rights away from us. Worse yet, I cannot believe that we are still talking about these issues in 2012. Perhaps a resounding defeat at the polls would get these folks off the dime.
    Good work and keep writing!!

  4. Anna

    WOW ladies, after reading your posts I could not be prouder to be among you as a single, Puerto Rican/Irish Mom working in corporate America. I applaud you. I stand with you. Let’s move forward…together!

  5. I couldn’t agree with you more.

    And – how is it that we are VOTING on how many civil rights people should have? It is absured, and it makes me feel insane that this is not obvious to everyone.

    Thank you for being a voice of reason.

  6. Women’s rights and politics, women’s rights and religion. They should not be related but unfortunately they are. Politician use them as a promotion tool (or the opposite), religion and women’ rights are clearly misaligned for more than a thousand years. I just wrote a nice rant about the last, if you’re interested and don’t mind me promoting myself.
    It felt strange to write on the topic at first, being a man as such, but I believe that there are many men that support the cause.

    • Thank you so much, Tim, for writing and your views. Yes, there are many men that support the (read: our) cause, no doubt because our cause is a human cause. We all “win” when women’s rights are protected. Or perhaps just those who do not seek power over others “win”. Thanks for being a good guy.

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