Civil rights not for me to decide

I am writing in response to Patricia Jones’s letter to the editor regarding the referendum that would add a ban on same-sex marriage to the Minnesota Constitution. I am not writing to argue with Ms. Jones’s religious viewpoint; to the contrary, I respect her right to her beliefs. However, what I am concerned about is the use of a referendum to limit the civil rights of others.

There was a time in this country when the majority of citizens, especially in certain states, would not recognize the rights of African Americans to equal protection under the law. Similarly, women have over the years faced obstacles to exercise their rights, many of these obstacles based in deeply held religious beliefs. The concept of the “tyranny of the majority” is one of the reasons that civil rights issues should be left to our governments, which are constructed in accordance with a balance of power approach to addressing issues as important as civil rights. There is always the possibility that people will be swayed by belief and/or emotion to deny rights to others.

I will not attack Ms. Jones, or her beliefs; as I said, I respect her right to them. But I would like to share with her — and with other women (and men) who will vote for the referendum — the following excerpt from an argument against women’s suffrage, written by a woman in 1870, and point out that the law that allows her to vote here was enacted regardless of the religious arguments against it.

“Christianity can be proved to be the safest and highest ally of man’s nature, physical, moral, and intellectual, that the world has yet known. … This grand and holy religion, whose whole action is healthful, whose restraints are all blessings — this gracious religion, whose chief precepts are the love of God and the love of man — this same Christianity confirms the subordinate position of woman, by allotting to man the headship in plain language and by positive precept. … No woman calling herself a Christian, acknowledging her duties as such, can, therefore, consistently deny the obligation of a limited subordination laid upon her by her Lord and His Church.” (“Female Suffrage: A Letter to the Christian Women of America,” by Susan Fenimore Cooper, Harper’s New Weekly Magazine, Vol. XLI (June – November, 1870), pp. 438- 446, 594-600.)

I will vote against the referendum, not based on my opinion for or against the religious argument, but because I do not believe the issue of civil rights is one for me to decide. — Deb Lawler, Elk River