MY TURN | Jennifer Horne: U.S. Should Fight for Human Rights
Horne, Jennifer, The Tuscaloosa News
Dr. Larry Clayton's essay, "Misguided morality: Pushing gay agenda on other countries is a mistake" (Jan. 8), takes up the question of whether the United States should encourage other countries to acknowledge and respect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Dr. Clayton is a respected historian, and I am sure he knows more about the history and development of concepts such as "natural rights" discussed in his essay than I do. Still, I believe he leaves out several important points that are worth addressing in the discussion he has opened.
Dr. Clayton states as settled a number of questions for which answers are debatable and still evolving: That being LGBT is a matter of "preference" and "choice;" that "very clearly, homosexuality is condemned in the Judeo-Christian context;" that marriage "as recognized by nature and religion ... is a sacred union, obeying natural laws, to produce and protect the family;" and, finally, that the fact of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton being "Ivy League trained lawyers (Harvard and Yale) would no doubt have Puritan and Congregationalist ministers who founded the colleges turning over in their graves." Regardless of elected officials' and citizens' personal religious beliefs, we are fortunate that the country's founders wrote the separation of church and state into our guiding documents, aware that when religious belief and governance are too closely intertwined, intolerance and persecution can flourish.
By devoting much of the discussion to same-sex marriage in the U.S. and Christian objections to same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general, Dr. Clayton's essay sidesteps the issue he began with: Secretary of State Clinton's speech at International Human Rights Day in Geneva, Switzerland, which, Clayton writes, "criticized nations that criminalize gay behavior or tolerate abuse of gay, bisexual or transgendered people as abuses of basic human rights." The history of the world evidences the slow, often hard-fought, recognition that all of us, not just those of one race or gender or ruling class, have full personhood and thus are deserving of what we call human rights -- including the right not to be attacked, imprisoned or even executed for behavior that may discomfit some, but which harms no one. …