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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Group-Differentiated Rights


According to one source:


Group-differentiated rights, or rights that vest on the basis of an individual’s membership in a particular social or cultural group, are an increasingly common and controversial aspect of modern liberal legal systems. In justifying such rights, theorists have largely focused on demonstrating the conformity of group-differentiated rights with principles of liberal neutrality.


For context, one source adds:


Liberal neutrality has two underlying intuitions and therefore two distinct elements. On the one hand it refers to the intuition that there are matters the state has no business getting involved in. On the other hand it is motivated by the idea that the state ought to treat citizens as equals and show equal respect for their different conceptions of the good life.


In Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), use of should, must, or ought narratives is associated with the irrational belief of demandingness. However, as a matter of law, legal shoulds aren’t necessarily concerned with logic or reason.


For instance, within some states of the United States (U.S.), abortion is banned. There are varying statements of justification for why particular states allow abortions while others don’t.


However, depending on one’s personal morals and ethics, legal shoulds from a pro or con position in this regard may be considered logical, illogical, reasonable, or unreasonable. Regardless of one’s perspective concerning the matter, people within states are obligated to follow applicable laws.


When considering group-differentiated rights, one source opines:


The problem is this: once we move from the theoretical justification of group-differentiated rights to their implementation in practice, we are immediately confronted with the dilemma of identifying which particular individuals are to benefit. In other words, for any given group-differentiated right, we need to be able to pinpoint who the members of that group are. For example, if we hold that the state has an obligation to create legal exemptions for some citizens on the basis of their cultural or religious affiliations, to which particular citizens are we going to grant the exemption?


Aside from issues related to inclusion, the obvious matter of exclusion arises. For instance, suppose a legal policy is instituted that deprives Generation Alpha (people born between 2010 and 2025) the right to vote in U.S. elections despite achieving the age of majority (18-years-old).


This law would constitute group-differentiated rights for all generational cohorts preceding Gen Alpha, though functioning as a discriminatory measure targeting the current youngest generation. One imagines some people would deem this a fitting proposal, perhaps irrationally so.


Expanding upon the matter of group-differentiated rights, one source states:


Some proponents of group rights conceive right-holding groups as moral entities in their own right, so that the group has a being and status analogous to those of an individual person. Others give groups no such independent standing, but conceive group rights as rights shared in and held jointly by the group’s members. Some opponents of group rights challenge the very proposition that groups can bear rights. Others do not, but worry about the threats that group rights might pose for individuals and their rights.


This is no simple matter. For instance, person X may support group rights for the State of Texas, rejecting all other groups as recipients to these unique liberties or freedoms – to include those matters related to federal jurisdiction.


On the other hand, person Y may support rights for the State of Texas, as well as for the U.S. in totality. The sovereignty of the nation is thus considered paramount, though Texas additionally receives unique rights not enjoyed by other states.


Even still, person Z, a Helsinki resident, may reject the claims of persons X and Y while maintaining that all humans share group membership with the world. Therefore, a global group-differentiated rights standard is used in place of states or U.S. rights.


Regarding the persons X, Y, and Z of the world, in a blog entry entitled The Sneetches, I used Dr. Seuss’ imaginary characters to demonstrate the concept of group-differentiated rights. I thusly concluded:


I propose that you and I cannot control or influence these Sneetches in any meaningful way. We may hope for a beneficial outcome for one or both sides, though we cannot rationally demand that our desires will be met.


The purpose of the current blogpost is to illustrate how complex the matter of group-differentiated rights is and to invite readers to rationally tolerate and accept the limits of their control and influence over legal, state, national, and global matters. It may be in one’s best interests to consider this lesson.


Then again, readers are welcome to disturb themselves with unhelpful demandingness. The choice is yours to make. For those who want to know more about how to stop upsetting yourself regarding group-differentiated rights and other matters, I’m here to help.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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Mitnick, E. J. (2004). Three models of group-differentiated rights. University of Massachusetts School of Law. Retrieved from

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Zellentin, A. (2012). Liberal neutrality – Treating citizens as free and equal. De Gruyter. Retrieved from

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