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'Governed' have lost clout with government

May. 10, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

According to the "Presidents Fact Book," Thomas Jefferson "continually fought for America's most cherished ideals of liberty, asserting that human beings are born with natural rights, rather than having rights bestowed upon them by a government, and that governments govern by consent of the people, rather than by forcing their will upon the people."

A major theme in Jefferson's "A Summary of the Rights of British America," which became central to the American cause, was an assertion that "human rights are derived from the laws of nature, not granted as gifts from monarchs."

John Locke believed governments ought to follow majority rule as reflected in the Constitution. Locke's writings helped American leaders to form ideas on human rights and to establish a system of government reflecting the will of the people.

This way of thinking seems to have gone down the drain! If a law or "right" passes muster in the three branches of government, then it really doesn't matter too much what the "governed" have to say about it.

For the most part, our civil rights are no longer accepted as natural rights human beings are born with; rather, they are "rights bestowed" by the government. And government no longer governs "by consent of the people," but by the rules and regulations handed down from the three branches of our government -- that is, passed by the Congress, signed by the President and tested in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Soon, we will be seeing a judgment handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, which is the federal law stating that marriage is exclusively, by law, between a man and a woman. Perhaps a third of Americans agree with DOMA, while clearly a large majority do not!

As a matter of fact, 10 states plus Washington, D.C., have recognized the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. New Jersey "passed a freedom to marry bill" but the governor vetoed it. Two states, in addition to the above, respect out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples; while six additional states allow civil unions and three more "offer broad domestic partnerships." Wisconsin "has more limited domestic partnership."

Although I see no problem with civil unions or domestic partnerships, I personally have reservations about using the term "same-sex marriage."

But back to the point: the fact is that 40 percent of the U. S. population lives in a state where "either marriage or a broad legal status such as civil union or domestic partnership" are recognized. And reputable polling indicates that far more than a majority of Americans agree that same-sex marriages should be the recognized, legal right of GLBT citizens who, everyone recognizes, pay taxes, too!

It will be most interesting to see if we are a people who live by the consent of the government or the government functions by the consent of the governed.

I suspect we've come a long way from the beliefs and/or intentions of John Locke or Thomas Jefferson.

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.



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