The Morality of Human Rights

Human Rights Quarterly 42 (2020) 434–478

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 20-12

46 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2020

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 1, 2020


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights embodies a particular morality: the morality of human rights (as I call it). In this article--published in the May 2020 issue of the Human Rights Quarterly--I address several questions concerning concerning that morality, beginning with this fundamental question: What reason or reasons do we have, if indeed we have any, to accept, rather than reject, the morality of human rights; more precisely, what reason(s) do we have, if any, to live our lives--and to do what we reasonably can, all things considered, to get our governments to conduct their affairs--in accord with the morality of human rights? Next, I explicate two of the most important parts of the morality of human rights: the human right to moral equality and the human right to moral freedom. Finally, I pursue the implications of those two rights for two ongoing human rights controversies: the controversies concerning, respectively, the criminalization of abortion and the exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage.

Suggested Citation

Perry, Michael John, The Morality of Human Rights (May 1, 2020). Human Rights Quarterly 42 (2020) 434–478, Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 20-12, Available at SSRN:

Michael John Perry (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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