POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

American Freedom and Equality Continued

by David Trumbull

July 14, 2006

The drama of liberty which we celebrated on the Fourth of July continues. Four years after the Declaration of Independence, John Adams, in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts framed this Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants:

All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

Those words were invoked three years later by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice William Cushing, stating:

[the words of the Constitution] declare that all men are born free and equal; and that every subject is entitled to liberty... In short slavery is in my judgment as effectively abolished as it can be by the granting of rights and privileges wholly incompatible and repugnant to its existence.

It would take decades, and America's bloodiest war, to bring freedom to all Americans. Lincoln's words in 1863 at Gettysburg mark another scene in the drama:

However in the political and civic realm, the genius for enlargement of liberties has, in recent decades, severely atrophied. On November 2, 1976, the voters of the Commonwealth adopted Amendment 106 to the Massachusetts Constitution, which added to the phrase, All people are born free and equal, the following enumeration: Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed or national origin. It's a catalog of protected classes which, far from expanding freedom, suggests that while "all people are born free and equal" the law need only concern itself with persons so far as they are representatives of their sex, race, etc. In sum it is a denial of individual freedom in favor of group identity.

Under this political theory, which now enjoys support among the elite in our Commonwealth, persons are not equal before the law based on nothing more than shared humanity, but rather as arising out of membership is some particular class. There is no end to the new protected classes than politicians can pander to, to the detriment of the common public good. And no end to the spurious new rights, which are no rights at all but merely political patronage directed at preferred classes who vote for these politicians.

Such was the Goodrich decision, which imposed same-sex "marriage", on an incredulous public. Such is the argument of those who would deny the citizens of the Commonwealth a vote on marriage. Their equality is in fact the tyranny of a well-organized and well-funded minority. Their freedom is the suppression of the right of the majority to establish its laws.

Over a hundred years ago, as the perversion of the natural rights of all men into the special privileges of protected classes was just beginning to infect our political institutions, the current battle to protect marriage was foreseen:

No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage. Hence we have the family [which is] older than any State. Consequently, it has rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State.
-- Pope Leo XIII, Rerum novarum, May 15, 1891.