In his Annual Message to Congress on December 1, 1862, Abraham Lincoln said these famous words in his conclusion: "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free--honorable alike in what we give, and we preserve."
What Lincoln means is that what when we recognize and perserve the dignity of others, we perserve our own dignity as well. For "slave" and "free", substitute the pair of terms "male" and "female" or "gay" and "straight" and you begin to get a true vision of why civil rights and justice are so important.
(I know that some would also pair up "unborn" and "born". I will reserve my thoughts on this matter for another post.)