There's a great op-ed piece in today's Washington Post from John Podesta, founder and president of the Center for American Progress, and Robert Levy, chairman of the Cato Institute.
Nearly a century after the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that "marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man.' " That 1967 case, Loving v. Virginia, ended bans on interracial marriage in the 16 states that still had such laws.
Now, 43 years after Loving, the courts are once again grappling with denial of equal marriage rights -- this time to gay couples. We believe that a society respectful of individual liberty must end this unequal treatment under the law.
Toward that goal, we have agreed to co-chair the advisory board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. The foundation helped launch the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which is currently before a federal district court in California but is likely to be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Perry case -- scheduled for closing arguments next Wednesday -- was brought by two couples whose relationships are marked by the sort of love, commitment and respect that leads naturally to marriage. Kris Perry and Sandy Stier and their four children, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, ask for no more, and deserve no less, than the equal rights accorded to every other American family. But they are blocked from obtaining marriage licenses under California's Proposition 8.
The plaintiffs' legal team, headed by former Bush v. Gore antagonists Theodore Olson and David Boies, has demonstrated that no good reason exists for the denial of fundamental civil rights under Proposition 8. We support that position.
Although we serve, respectively, as president of a progressive and chairman of a libertarian think tank, we are not joining the foundation's advisory board to present a "bipartisan" front. Rather, we have come together in a nonpartisan fashion because the principle of equality before the law transcends the left-right divide and cuts to the core of our nation's character. This is not about politics; it's about an indispensable right vested in all Americans.
As the country evolved, the meaning of one small word -- "all" -- has evolved as well. Our nation's Founders reaffirmed in the Declaration of Independence the self-evident truth that "all Men are created equal," and our Pledge of Allegiance concludes with the simple and definitive words "liberty and justice for all." Still, we have struggled mightily since our independence, often through our courts, to ensure that liberty and justice is truly available to all Americans.
The decision in Perry depends, of course, on values far more permanent and important than opinion polls. No less than the constitutional rights of millions of Americans are at stake. But the public appears to be catching up with the Constitution. Just a little more leadership from the courts would be the perfect prescription for a free society.
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