Posts Tagged ‘rights’

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The Media, Democracy & You

2011/10/09

In a world where digital social networking has become the norm, and businesses scramble to harness its unimaginable power, there are both good and bad things to come from this revolution of communication. I do believe the good things to come out of this technology far exceed the bad, but the bad things seem to shine a light into the sometimes surprising darkness of the human condition.

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The Forgotten Amendment That Defines a People

2009/11/16

The Gay Rights movement is Wrong. Now, before someone decides to take aim at me with whatever device they wish, I should explain. Not only is the Gay Rights movement wrong, but so is the Gay Marriage Ban and the ERA movements. They are all moot points thanks to a fantastic thing called Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

It’s right there, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States” pretty much covers the bases, I think. It does not say all persons who are also members of a religious order, or all persons practicing heterosexuality, or all persons who possess a Y chromosome. It says that all persons born and naturalized in this country and subject to the jurisdiction of this country are citizens of the United States. It also states that as a citizen of the United States no State can make or enforce any law that denies the basic rights and privileges of its citizens.

That means Kentucky cannot enact a law which would prohibit Jane Q. Public from holding a job for which she is eminently qualified simply because she is a woman. That means the Maine State Police cannot remove John Q. Public and Jack Doe from their home to enforce an ordinance which allows their landlord to nullify their lease on the grounds of their open homosexual relationship. It also means that the federal government and/or the state of Nevada cannot imprison native born Americans of Japanese descent simply because the government of Japan has declared war as proven by the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment is a beautiful piece of law, even if the rest of the amendment is just a case of kicking someone when they’re down.  The only problem I can see with the Fourteenth Amendment is the application and enforcement of it.  For instance, we enacted the Fifteenth Amendment to guarantee that a citizen’s race not be used to bar them from voting. And then again with the Nineteenth Amendment to guarantee that a citizen’s gender not be used to bar them from voting. Had we simply upheld the Fourteenth Amendment, neither of those pieces of legislation would have been necessary.

Now, the Fourteen Amendment was one of three amendments enacted after the Civil War as part of the Reconstruction Amendments. This amendment gave us a broad definition of citizenship, and overruled Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) which barred slaves, as well as their descendants, from being granted any Constitutional rights.

However, perhaps its most far reaching affect comes from the application of its Due Process Clause, as it has been used to assert the Bill of Rights to the states. This clause recognizes not only substantive due process rights (parental and marriage rights), but also the rights of procedural due process, which require that specific steps, such as a hearing, must be taken before a person’s “life, liberty, or property” are taken away.

And the part that should stick out in everyone’s mind is the amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. This clause requires the states to provide equal protection under the law for all people within their jurisdictions. Equal protection under the law for all people. It should be said twice. It should be said every single day, by every single person in this country. Thanks to our constitution, our living document, we are all granted equal protection under the law. It doesn’t matter if you a card carrying communist, a decorated war veteran, an English teacher, a Taiwanese immigrant, a gay man, a black woman, or a child suffering at the hands of an authority figure, we are all granted equal protection under the law. The communist shouldn’t be mugged on the street, the vet has the right to speak her mind on the street corner, the teacher should expect his marriage license from Hawaii to be valid in Idaho, the immigrant knows that by following the law they can one day become a citizen, the gay man has the right to exist unharmed in any town he chooses to live, the black woman can work in any field she trains for without regard for her race, and the child should know the feeling of justice and mercy in the eyes of the law. And the reason all of these things are true is the Fourteenth Amendment.

So, why is it that we have forgotten about this wonderful piece of law? Ask anyone why they have their freedoms, and at best, they might be able to say the Bill of Rights. But no one remembers the Fourteenth Amendment, no one can say with conviction, they are a citizen of these United States and their rights have been defined by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Instead of asking for a new amendment, instead of demanding special legislation affording you specific rights and privileges, why not demand that your government uphold equal protection under the law for all “persons born or naturalized in the United States.” Stop trying to fight the church to get recognition for gay marriage, because a belief cannot be legislated. Instead, require the court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, because it is in direct opposition to the Fourteenth Amendment, and seek out legal recognition for all unions, equally. As a citizen of the United States of America it is your privilege, your right to equal protection under the law, and it is your duty as a citizen to protect the those same rights of other citizens.

Equal protection under the law is too important a concept in this country for anyone to forget. The Fourteenth Amendment gives this amazing thing as our right, guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of American. And united, we should all demand that it be upheld.

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