Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Protecting Marriage: Round Two

"This national question requires a national solution," President Bush told a group of clergy and members of conservative lobbying groups Monday as he campaigned for the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution.

"An amendment to the Constitution is necessary," Bush continued, "because activist courts have left our nation with no other choice. When judges insist on imposing their arbitrary will on the people, the only alternative left to the people is an amendment to the Constitution, the only law a court cannot overturn."

Should the courts decide who can get married to who?

Well, we no longer hear objections to the Supreme Court's 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia that Virginia's statutory scheme to prevent marriages between persons solely on the basis of racial classifications violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, do we?

The background to the Loving ruling is this: In June 1958, two residents of Virginia, Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, married in the District of Columbia. The Lovings soon returned to Virginia. Later that year, a grand jury issued an indictment charging the Lovings with violating Virginia's ban on interracial marriages.

The Lovings pleaded guilty to the charge and were sentenced to one year in jail; however, the trial judge suspended the sentence for a period of 25 years on the condition that the Lovings leave the State and not return to Virginia together for 25 years.

As Ed Brayton points out on his excellent Dispatches From the Culture Wars blog, the "lower court ruling that the "activist" Supreme Court overturned made pretty much the same argument against interracial marriage as we hear against gay marriage from the religious right today:"

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

Yes, those words are from the trial judge's ruling. It shows just how much things have changed, and how much they remain the same. In 1967 it was acceptable to say those things about black people. Today, such racist arguments are taboo -- at least in public.

Where once the Republican Party of Richard Nixon wielded its Southern Strategy to win elections, it now cynically manipulates anti-gay prejudice to keep itself in power just as it manipulates public policy and debate on the issues of public education, evolution, stem cell research, and global warming.


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