Those Rights Include Right to Disagree

European Court of Human Rights

European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg

The United States Constitution

There always seems to be more issues dividing us than uniting us. If it's not one thing it's another. It's the story of humanity.

This is a free country! We can think what we want to think, believe what we want to believe, go where we want to go, say what we want to say, do what we want to do!

The Bill of Rights

We can associate with anyone we want or belong to any club or group we care to join. In this country we are fortunate because our founding fathers, knowing the importance of individual rights, tried to spell them out in a document called the "Bill of Rights" -- and they did a darn good job, too.

But little did they know what 300 years of development could lead to -- despite their valiant effort to put flexibility into the Constitution to make it viable for centuries to come.

The founders could not have foreseen the extent of our disagreement over rights: state's rights, voting rights and abortion rights; the right to work, right to life, the right to live and the right to die, the right of the minority to be free from the tyranny of the majority -- and one right I reserve for myself: The right to be wrong!

Rights! Everyone wants -- no, demands -- his rights.

And then there's gay rights; the latest battleground.

A Divided Nation

The nation is clearly badly divided on the gay question; their opinions cover the entire spectrum from total opposition to total support.

A recent UConn poll indicates that support in Connecticut for President Clinton's lifting of the ban against homosexuals in the military is waning.

The numbers also indicate a generation gap: People under 30 approve of gays in the military by a much larger margin than people over 60. There are those who say the sexual orientation of any individual is nobody's business; others, tagged homophobes by those who preach tolerance for gays, say it is unnatural and abhorrent to be homosexual and, therefore, homosexuals should not be approved and, perhaps, not even tolerated.

Many people have developed negative attitudes about gays from those who have had a high profile over the years: Gays who have accosted them on the streets, gays arrested in public places, gays seen disrupting parades.

'Just Like Everyone Else'

In the past decade or so, previously low-profile gays have "outed," telling the world they're just like everyone else and maintaining that their sexual orientation has nothing to do with how they do their jobs.

They say, as the Clinton Administration does, that one should be judged by his behavior, not by his sexual orientation.

I say gays do have rights, but they are human rights, not gay rights.

Gays have a right to be gay, but not the right to others' approval.

Fairminded, Not Judgmental

Fairminded people are not judgmental about other people. Just as one's religion is his own business, so is one's sexuality.

But, while I respect your right to your beliefs, I am not obligated to permit you to teach them to my children.

This column was written for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Feb. 13, 1993. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages. To view my HubPages Profile Click Here

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Comments 7 comments

Bob 8 years ago

I agree. They have rights . I also have rights. It seems that they want to infringe on my rights. As you wrote . I have the right not to approve of them . I DON'T. What they do in their privacy is their business and not mine. JUST DON"T TRY TO SHOVE THE GAY LIFE STYLE DOWN MY THROAT.


Linda 8 years ago

Yeah, it seems they want to be sure you know they are gay and keep shoving it down our throats. And heaven forbid you say anything negative, then they cry fowl.

You said it Bill we don't have to have it taught to our kids as being normal.And frankly, the thought of it turns my stomach. I really feel creepy at the idea of being in a rest room with one. It's just unnatural. Good observation on tolerance. I notice the same thing. We seniors are pretty much anti gay, our kids, tolerate it a bit more. Our grand kids think it is OK. In a discussion with one of my granddaughters, I told her Satan has done a good job at getting sin accepted in society in the past 50 years.


beth 8 years ago

good article!


stanskill profile image

stanskill 8 years ago from Greensburg, PA

Acceptance isn't important to me neither. That is why I wrote a proposal to my community to make these conversations obsolete for future generations.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you for your comment, stanskill.


mbuggieh 3 years ago

Civil liberties are those protected by the Bill of Rights. Among these: Freedom of AND from religion, freedom of speech, due process, privacy rights. Civil rights are the right of each of us to be protected by the government FROM each other. One cannot have civil liberties if one does not have a government protecting civil rights because there will always be someone trying to curtail the rights of someone else because they have deemed that someone else a problem to be solved. We see this all too clearly in history with efforts to curtail the rights of people of color, of women, of people with disabilities, of gays and lesbians.

This is why laws are needed to protect basic human rights. Read the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution. Read the political thought of the Enlightenment which informs each. The message is clear: Governments are "instituted among men" to protect civil liberties---to protect the "inalienable rights" we are ALL---without reference to being (among other things) a person of color, female, disabled or gay or lesbian, born with.

Your rights end where they infringe on the rights of another. Your right, for example, to hate homosexuals because your religion tells you too ENDS where my right to freedom FROM your religion and my right my life begins.

And finally, for anyone who thinks the Founders did not understand that disagreement and conflict would emerge in a democratic society, read some history. Read Madison's NOTES ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION and pay particular attention to his effort to sell the US Constitution to anti-federalists as a document that would curtail majoritarianism and protect the rights of minorities.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thank you, mbuggieh, for your welcome contribution to the conversation. My opinions on these issues, I admit, have been influenced by having been taught as a boy by the good Sisters of Charity at St. Peter's School in Yonkers, N.Y., as well as observations on the streets of Yonkers back then. But my views have moderated considerably over the years -- even since I wrote this piece in 1993.

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