The Importance of Civil Liberties

August 1, 2008
By Ashley Sheridan, Freehold, NJ

The presidential race for 2008 has narrowed down to three candidates: Hilary Clinton, Barrack Obama, and John McCain. Each candidate has different opinions on several civil rights and liberties, and their stances are sure to affect the race. Some civil liberties include gay rights and affirmative action. These rights are constantly addressed by both organizations and the media. Gay rights are perhaps one of the most controversial issues protected by civil liberties. Since the first same-sex marriage in 1973, the American Civil Liberties Union has worked to protect gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people from violence and discrimination. The LGBT’s (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) Project’s School program tries to defend student’s sexual orientation and protect them from bullying and violence. The ACLU is also committed to protecting the rights of LGBT parents as they may be subjected to discriminatory laws such as visitation rights and custody. While gay rights have gained a lot of momentum in recent decades, it still faces heavy opposition in government. Collectively, none of the candidates support the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. However, McCain does not support civil unions and believes the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy should remain intact. Clinton and Obama, on the other hand, support civil unions and an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Another controversial issue is affirmative action. Affirmative action is a set of public policies that are used to help eliminate discrimination in the working place. These public policies protect citizens from being discriminated against because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Some people criticize affirmative action, claiming that it promotes reverse discrimination, meaning that employers will hire a minority to meet a quota instead of someone who is more qualified for a job. Throughout his political career, McCain has often supported affirmative action in certain circumstances. Yet, he has come out saying that he does not endorse a quota system. Similarly, Hilary Clinton has expressed favor towards affirmative action. Specifically, she has spoke out against the discrimination of women in the workplace. Of all three, Obama is perhaps affirmative action’s biggest backer, supporting it across the board. At times, he has expressed support for poor white college applicants, women in the workplace, and blacks in business and government.

Civil liberties have become a significant matter and are meant to be protected by the United States government. Every vote counts, but you shouldn’t just vote for a candidate because of their charisma and character. These issues have become a major part of the election and may be a determining factor in who ultimately wins. It is important that topics like gay rights and affirmative action be researched and taken into account when deciding on a candidate.

The author's comments:
I originally wrote this piece for my high school newspaper. The newspaper staff realized that in the near future many of the students or the graduating seniors would be voting and that it was important to inform them on the important issues in the upcoming presidential election.

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