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Gay marriage & the court: Right to be let alone

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Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

Americans who value individual liberty, limited government and the right to contract freely must hope that the U.S. Supreme Court, which has agreed to take up two gay-marriage cases, will rule that they can marry whomever they please.

Presenting the better opportunity for — but no guarantee of — such a sweeping ruling is an appeal of lower courts' rulings that California's voter-approved Proposition 8 gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional. The other case, involving a widow whose $363,000 federal estate-tax bill would have been $0 had she married a man, not a woman, concerns the federal Defense of Marriage Act denying legally married gay couples benefits that straight spouses get.

Banning gay marriage — which polls suggest most Americans support and which is legal or soon will be in nine states — violates the Constitution's equal-protection and due-process clauses as egregiously as did slavery or interracial-marriage bans. So does penalizing gay spouses.

And with UCLA's Williams Institute saying just 4 percent of Americans, not Alfred Kinsey's 10 percent, are gay, claims about gay marriage — a minor societal factor overall — harming heterosexual marriage ring hollow.

Government impermissibly interferes in private lives by telling Americans whom they can marry. The high court must weigh in on the side of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — not to mention the right to be let alone — by making marriage an institution in which all can participate fully.

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