Saturday, October 17, 2009

Marriage bigotry of all stripes lives on

For those folks who believe that anti-miscegenation attitudes are a thing of the past, you're wrong [replaced broken link].

As has been pointed out countless times before, anti-miscegenation attitudes and laws once prevented interracial couples from marrying in this country, and today the same sort of prejudice is preventing same-sex couples from marrying.

Of course, many who oppose same-sex marriage completely reject this. When pressed they don't really want to talk about anti-miscegenation laws and attitudes at all. To them that is as ancient as slavery and totally incomparable to anti-same-sex marriage. Of course, the reality is that it isn't so ancient. While many states had removed their anti-miscegenation laws, there were still many states left who had such laws on the books. And they enforced them. One such state was Virginia.

In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned such laws as unconstitutional because of a case involving an interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, who though married in Washington, D.C., had set up residence in the Commonwealth of Virginia. (a post I made about the anniversary of Loving vs. Virginia)

Virginia law did not allow the marriage or cohabitation of interracial couples. I would hope to most of us this is a bizarrely primitive prohibition. But, as someone like myself living in a conservative town in the mid-west can attest, this sort of attitude continues today. I see it in my neighbors, even my own family.

A Hammond, Louisiana couple, Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay, have learned first hand that even today, in the 21st century, some 42 years after the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws nationwide, interracial couples can still be denied marriage in some quarters of this country. Fortunately for them, they were able to get married by someone else. They did end up leaving state but certainly didn't have to.

Not only are laws banning same-sex marriages unfairly prejudiced &; unconstitutional just as anti-miscegenation laws were in the past, but the bigotry of such beliefs continue to this day.

Both interracial heterosexual couples and homosexual couples in general share a great deal of commonality here. The bigots don't want to recognize that, because most of them know how backward it is to hold anti-racial beliefs. Either they don't want to admit it, or they just don't want to think of themselves being as backward and bigoted as their racist counterparts. But it is a reality they cannot escape.

It took a great long time, a lot of effort, and many, many incremental steps for interracial couples to win equality under the law in this country. Obviously some are still having to deal with isolated legal incidents like this one. Same-sex couples will have to endure the same. We've won a few states. There is a growing consensus. But there is much, much work ahead of us. And frankly, the forces against us are much more organized, much more indignant, and much more persistent than the anti-miscegenation crowd was.

It may be a decade before same-sex couples win national equality on this issue. But it will be generations before coots like this will stop denying us marriage. I think it is important for us to put that in perspective as we demand instant results on equality. We have to be realistic about what lies ahead. And we have to make sure that bigots who deny us are not allowed to continue their claim that anti-racial bigotry is ancient history and that somehow theirs is a legitimate concern when it comes to same-sex marriage...

One thing we could all do right now is call for Keith Bardwell, Justice of the Peace for Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana to be removed from his official duties.

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