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Editorial: A welcome extension of civil rights

Even as the United States was a leader in incorporating certain individual rights into its Constitution, it has been painfully slow in some cases when it comes to allowing those rights to be enjoyed to their fullest by all citizens.

The Civil War and a century of civil rights activism were the result of a failure to grant the basic rights of life, liberty and property to huge numbers of people thanks to the legacy of slavery.

Historically, the Fourth Amendment, contained in the Constitution's Bill of Rights, has protected the right of privacy from the prying eyes of the government. What is done in the home is presumed protected, unless there is outside evidence of criminal activity.

The expectation of privacy goes hand in hand with the protection that consenting adults may, in the privacy of their homes, engage in whatever expressions of affection they mutually deem appropriate.

While there is every reason to conclude that all such expressions engaged in by same sex consenting adults also are engaged in by male and female partners, there is a legacy of the Fourth Amendment protections being extended only to heterosexual consenting adults.

In recent years, that has gradually changed, and governments have acknowledged personal freedoms and rights that have traditionally extended to most people who have chosen to spend their lives together should apply to all those who choose to spend their lives together.

Thus it has come to pass, over the objection of many people with heartfelt arguments to the contrary, that same sex couples in Maryland are, as of this week, allowed to enjoy the same marital benefits as heterosexual couples.

Of course, given the reality known to any couple married for more than a few weeks, happily ever after doesn't come as a result of a few words spoken at a ceremony of union, but as a result of hard work, compromise and regular communication. Extending the right to marry to same sex couples, therefore, is very much a situation where the circumstances need to be accepted for better, or for worse.

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