The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”After the Supreme Court invalidated bans on interracial marriage, Bob Jones University still argued that the freedom of religion provisions of the First Amendment allowed it to ban interracial dating and keep its tax-exempt status while doing so, because its “rule against interracial dating is a matter of religious belief and practice.” And after the Supreme Court rejected this argument, in 1983, the university continued to ban interracial dating until the year 2000.
Even the more subtle legal defenses of same-sex marriage bans mirror the arguments used to defend bans on interracial marriage.
That’s why, from the discriminator’s standpoint, it’s more defensible to oppose gay marriage than to oppose interracial marriage. Why not consider the perspective of the person targeted by the discrimination?
From the perspective of a would-be spouse, being denied the right to same-sex marriage can be, in some ways, worse.
Proponents of these marriage bans framed their arguments in religious terms; legislators even quoted scripture and proclaimed that the ban was necessary “for the stability of society and for the greater glory of God.”The states’ lawyers defending these marriage bans have wisely refrained from invoking religion in their briefs to the high court, but they hint at it all the same; one state argues that the so-called “traditional definition” of marriage “goes back thousands of years.” And many of the third-party groups supporting the marriage bans have been even more explicit in arguing that their own religious beliefs justify their opposition to other people's marriages.
Some examples:* The Michigan Catholic Conference tells the court that “[t]he basis of our government is religion.” The brief repeatedly cites the Book of Genesis and argues that “God’s joinder of man and woman in marriage, exemplary as it is, inspired the secular law governing marriage.”* The brief of a coalition called “Religious Organizations, Public Speakers, and Scholars Concerned About Free Speech,” states that “[f]or two millenia, Christians have based their definition of marriage on the words of Jesus Christ.”* The Foundation For Moral Law, a group founded by Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, advises that “[t]he Bible, which has influenced moral values for Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions, contains clear disapproval of homosexual conduct in the Old Testament (Leviticus ) and in the New Testament (Romans –27).”* A group of self-proclaimed “Major Religious Organizations” warns that the Supreme Court cannot recognize marriage equality “without inflicting grave harm on millions of religious believers and their cherished beliefs and institutions.”This is not the first time that religion has been invoked to justify marriage discrimination.
There are arguments based on tradition: In 1967, Virginia officials told the Supreme Court that “The Virginia [bans on interracial marriage] reflect a policy which has obtained in this Commonwealth for over two centuries in which still obtains in seventeen states.” Now, in 2015, Michigan tells the Supreme Court that it “has defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman since before statehood.” Kentucky says that same-sex marriage “is not deeply rooted in this Nation’s history.”And there are arguments based on dubious social science and vague premonitions.
In 1967, Virginia warned the court that it would quickly “find itself mired in a veritable Serbonian bog of conflicting scientific opinion upon the effects of interracial marriage,” an obscure reference to a place in ancient Egypt where one could be sucked under by quicksand.
They’ve raised the analogy in the context of a New Mexico couple who refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. But the race analogy is worth addressing on its own.
In many ways, today’s debate about same-sex marriage resembles earlier debates about interracial marriage. In at least two ways, however, the situations differ.
Marriage has historically been a sexual institution. Many gay people are already raising children, and doing it just as well as straight people. But I’d be remiss to omit the rejoinder from George and his colleagues: Sex is a much brighter line than fertility or intention to bear children.