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Women had only earned the right to vote
27 years before I was born.
It took 72 years of men voting no
before women could participate
in our democracy.

Inalienable Rights

444 words


Should we vote to see if you get them?
by Dianne Roth


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Those were lofty words in 1776. Signed on July 4, the representatives of our original 13 colonies declared to the world that we were a free country and we intended to govern ourselves as a representative democracy.

Never mind that the “certain unalienable Rights” were only given to landowners who happened to be white and male.

Two hundred thirty seven years after being signed, our Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution of the United States of America still stand as a model and beacon to people tired of living with tyranny and oppression.

Yet, it took 94 years to pass the Fifteenth Amendment, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” It passed with hearty opposition on February 3, 1870.

It took 50 more years to pass the Nineteenth Amendment, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex," in 1920, also with hearty opposition.

The very basic right to vote in our democracy was thwarted by the vote itself. Vicious battles were fought over the right to vote, with vote after vote keeping that right from legitimate American citizens.

How is it that we have come to accept “unalienable Rights” as something to be decided by “majority rules”? Here we are, 237 years later, still voting on whether this group or that group is eligible to claim rights that were granted by our founding parents.

Maybe you are a woman, or a person of color, or have a different sexual orientation, or have a disability, or are obese. Maybe you are left handed, or like broccoli, or have green eyes. Americans accept that if your group wants to have rights, we get to vote on them. It sounds like something you might find happening on an elementary school playground. And, we wouldn’t allow it to happen there!

In my mind, it is distinctly un-American to put human rights to a “majority rules” vote. When those citizens are our children, that vote it is beyond comprehension.

Boy Scouts of America, you are better than this. All our children and their parents were granted their “unalienable Rights”, 237 years ago. It should not take a vote to apply them.


Dianne Roth is a teacher, mother, grandmother, and freelance writer. She lives in Oregon.




Last updated on September 17, 2013