Here Is How Religious-Right Activists Sound So Much Like Opponents of Interracial Marriage Decades Ago

“Redefining #marriage “equals” no safeguards against “freedom to marry” multiple people for love, polygamy.”

Jonathan Saenz, the lawyer/lobbyist who heads the anti-gay group Texas Values, is once again making arguments Americans heard long ago when interracial couples sought the right to marry.

Greg Johnson, a professor at the Vermont Law School, has compared the arguments made against same-sex marriage today to those made against interracial marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned interracial marriage bans in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia. Writing for the Vermont Law Review in 2012, Johnson noted the similarities in arguments against interracial marriage then and same-sex marriage now, including the argument — as Saenz makes — that allowing same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy:

Defenders of traditional marriage back then worried that allowing interracial marriage would lead to, as one court put it, “the father living with his daughter, the son with the mother,” and the “Turk or Mohammedan, with his numerous wives, [] establish[ing] his harem at the doors of the capitol . . . .” When the California Supreme Court struck down that state’s ban on interracial marriage, it had to defend its decision against the charge that allowing interracial marriage would lead to polygamy. It has been sixty years since the California decision. Striking down the ban on interracial marriage obviously did not lead to polygamy or fathers marrying daughters. Perhaps the same specious argument can now also be laid to rest in the same-sex marriage debate.

Johnson also noted arguments about interracial marriage being a threat to families and children. Johnson quotes a Missouri Supreme Court ruling that went so far as to dismiss the entire notion that interracial marriages could even produce children:

“[I]f the isssue [sic] of a black man and a white woman, and a white man and a black woman, intermarry, they cannot possibly have any progeny, and such a fact sufficiently justifies those laws which forbid the intermarriage of blacks and whites . . . .”

Fast-forward to last year, when Greg Abbott — still the Texas attorney general — argued that Texas can ban same-sex marriage because such unions don’t “naturally produce children.”

Today opponents of marriage equality for same-sex couples also argue that recognizing such unions will threaten the institution and the marriages of opposite-sex couples. Again from Johnson’s article:

[C]ourts in the interracial marriage cases feared that allowing interracial couples to marry would tarnish the institution and destabilize fragile one-race marriages. Listen to the Alabama Supreme Court’s curious defense of that state’s ban on interracial marriage:

“It is through the marriage relation that the homes of a people are created . . . . These homes, in which the virtues are most cultivated and happiness most abounds, are the true . . . nurseries of States. Who can estimate the evil of introducing into their most intimate relations, elements so heterogeneous that they must naturally cause discord, shame, [and] disruption of family circles . . . . [T]he more humble and helpless families are, the more they need this sort of protection. Their spirits are crushed, or become rebellious, when other ills besides those of poverty, are heaped upon them. . . . [T]he law should absolutely frustrate and prevent the growth of any desire or idea of such an alliance . . . by making marriage between the two races, legally impossible[.]”

There is also the blanket position that seems to require no supporting evidence at all: marriage equality is just evil. Here’s Johnson again on the battle over interracial marriage:

The Georgia Supreme Court succinctly summarized the sentiment of essentially every court to consider this issue before Perez [v. Lippold in California, 1948] when it said, interracial marriages “are productive of evil, and evil only, without any corresponding good.”

Johnson points out that all of the fears about interracial arguments failed to come true:

All the worries about the end of marriage and the end of society, should interracial couples be allowed to marry, were obviously misplaced. The institution of marriage was not destroyed or even weakened by allowing interracial couples into the institution; it was strengthened. Personal liberty was enriched, and the social compact made firm, by extending marriage to interracial couples.

It’s important to acknowledge that not everyone who opposes marriage equality for same-sex couples is necessarily a bigot or just like those who opposed interracial marriage. Indeed, many may think it is wrong to discriminate against LGBT people in other areas, such as employment and housing. Their opposition to marriage equality is misguided, but its source isn’t necessarily contempt or hatred for LGBT people.

But then there are people like Saenz and others at Texas Values and other religious-right groups. They shamelessly cultivate fear and bigotry, using faith as a weapon to harm others. Indeed, they see religious freedom essentially as the right to use religion to discriminate against anyone who offends them. And in many ways, they sound just like the bigots who argued so viciously against interracial marriage decades ago.

4 thoughts on “Here Is How Religious-Right Activists Sound So Much Like Opponents of Interracial Marriage Decades Ago

  1. Excuse me. Adam and Eve were not created out of a mud puddle in the Middle East. Humanity evolved in Africa and as people moved to more northern climes the need for extra melanin decreased. That’s called SCIENTIFIC FACT.

    Adam and Eve did not ever exist, never. It is a myth and to use a four-thousand year-old myth to say who can and who cannot marry is absurd.

    It is enough to make me wish to become an atheist, but I’m not…yet.

    Pat Robers, who has been decried by many Christian organizations, said that we don’t have to worry about gays because they are going to become extinct because they can’t reproduce.

    PAT, PAT, PAT! LGBT people come from straight parents!!!!!! Pat, baby, it is time for you to get out of the public arena and go to a home that helps people with your degree of dementia. Don’t you ever bother to THINK before you bray? Methinks I know the answer to that.

  2. The rules and idiotic laws against marriage equality as as antiquated as the official bigotry were 6-decades ago. I’m from North Carolina and a small town jam up against Virginia, consequently, a lot of Tarheels share the same bigoted position as the ones against so-called “interracial” marriage. Science and DNA research has proved beyond any discussion that every human being alive today can trace his or her DNA right back to the cradle of evolution and mankind that is Africa. I discarded the idea of racial differences long ago and there is less than 1% difference between any human being alive. It’s not “racial” its ethnic. Just as the bigoted laws then were tossed out, marriage equality will be the law of the land soon, and not soon enough for this 71-Y-O straight guy who has been married to a beautiful Carolina Southern Bell for 49-years,who stands up for marriage equality today. I have close friends in the LGBT community and love and respect them all, and my best friend is gay, has known it since he was 13. For those who declare it’s a “choice” I ask them when they made the choice to be straight. It’s just a religious matter now and that’s as stupid as the older bigoted stand against marriage equality for all ethnic groups. Equality NOW!

  3. The only problems I have with the general idea of polygamy is the potential for abuse and fraud (cf. certain fundamentalist Mormons setting up a system of sexual child abuse disguised as marriage in combination with large-scale welfare fraud), both not specific to the poly- part. As long as it is consenting adults, it’s their problem to keep it working not the state’s. So, even if I would follow the argument: legal miscegenation/SSM => legal polygamy,
    I would not see it as a contra but a ‘yeah, what’s exactly the problem there?’