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12 January 2010

Levy: The Moral and Constitutional Case for a Right to Gay Marriage

Robert A. Levy is the chairman of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C.  He recently played a major role in strengthening the Second Amendment to the Constitution in the case of Washington, D.C. vs. Heller.  He recently wrote an article appearing in the New York Daily News on 7 January 2010 on the right to gay marriage called The Moral and Constitutional Case for a Right to Gay Marriage.  It is an excellent article, consistent with my oft-stated belief that we would be better served by getting government out of marriages, which I believe are a spiritual union of partners.  The government should only be offering an important legal contract for domestic partnerships, somewhat akin to a small business partnership.  The spiritual aspect of such a domestic partnership, the marriage aspect, is not something government can or should attempt to address.

Levy points out that New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. have just joined Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Vermont in legalizing gay marriage after disappointing defeats in California, Maine, and New York.  Levy says:
The primary purpose of government is to safeguard individual rights and prevent some persons from harming others. Heterosexuals should not be treated preferentially when the state carries out that role. And no one is harmed by the union of two consenting gay people.
For most of Western history, marriage was a matter of private contract between the betrothed parties and perhaps their families. Following that tradition, marriage today should be a private arrangement, requiring minimal or no state intervention. Some religious or secular institutions would recognize gay marriages; others would not; still others would call them domestic partnerships or assign another label. Join whichever group you wish. The rights and responsibilities of partners would be governed by personally tailored contracts — consensual bargains like those that control most other interactions in a free society.
Levy notes that more than 1,000 federal laws dealing mostly with taxes and transfer payments have provisions for married people.  The states have many more laws with provisions for married people.  But Levy says:
Whenever government imposes obligations or dispenses benefits, it may not "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." That provision is explicit in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, applicable to the states, and implicit in the Fifth Amendment, applicable to the federal government.
Levy also observes that:
No compelling reason has been proffered for sanctioning heterosexual but not homosexual marriages. Nor is a ban on gay marriage a close fit for attaining the goals cited by proponents of such bans. If the goal, for example, is to strengthen the institution of marriage, a more effective step might be to bar no-fault divorce and premarital cohabitation. If the goal is to ensure procreation, then infertile and aged couples should be precluded from marriage.
More and more people are unable to find any substantial merit to the claim that gay domestic partnerships weaken or threaten heterosexual marriages.  As Levy notes, nearly 60% of Fortune 500 companies offer employee benefits to domestic partners.  The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has also voted to apply employee benefits to the gay partners of federal employees.  The clock is running out on this cruel act of discrimination.

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