There is an axiom that Utah culture is only a decade, perhaps even only a few years, behind a broader American culture in decline. Recently, as the Utah House of Representatives debated the Dating Violence Protection Act, HB50, further evidence arose that perhaps this axiom is true.
The bill would extend legal protections, in cases of actual or threatened violence, protections already existing for people married and cohabitating, to people on dates. In the process, the bill creates legal standing for a “dating relationship.” In fact, a good portion of the bill defines that relationship.
When the integrity of the law matches the integrity of what our laws were designed to uphold, the basis of law is personhood. In other words, a law prohibiting murder applies to every person. Laws that are just don’t require the categorization of human beings — males, females, black, white, rich, poor — just laws require only personhood.
This American legal ideal has been perfected over the past two centuries. But the ideal has held: personhood is the basis of just laws. Personhood requires society to define what it means to be a human being. In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unjustly that a black man was not fully a human being. The court wrongly defined personhood.
Of course, our laws have succeeded in defining personhood more than they have failed. Marriage and family, for instance, are two areas of the law where, since our nation’s founding, we have properly upheld the ideal of personhood — meaning, our laws continue to recognize the inherent personhood in marriage and family and their important benefits to society.
But even those laws are losing their integrity.