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Those Rights Include Right to Disagree

Updated on March 20, 2020
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU 1963. Worked in NYC in public relations 2 years then as reporter/news editor 32 years at The Hour newspapers. Retired in 2000.

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

Fair-minded 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.

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