Texas Politicians Make the Case for Upholding State Bans on Interracial Marriage

In some ways, at least, that’s what it has sounded like since U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia on Wednesday struck down the Texas ban on same-sex marriage. If many of  the complaints we heard from politicians and activists on the right sounded familiar, they should have: they’re essentially the same ones Americans heard when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state bans against interracial marriage nearly five decades ago.

Gov. Rick Perry insisted on Wednesday that “the 10th Amendment [to the U.S. Constitution] guarantees Texas voters the freedom to make these decisions.” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz complained that Judge Garcia’s decision is a “troubling display of judicial activism” and that “unelected judges should not be substituting their own policy views for the reasoned judgments of the citizens of Texas.” Others joined in with similar denunciations of “judicial activism” and calls to respect state sovereignty over marriage.

Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, who is seeking the Republican nomination for state attorney general this year, portrayed the court’s decision as “disastrous” and made a religious case for upholding the ban on same-sex marriage:

“Some liberal, unelected federal judges with lifetime appointments seem to be missing the point that not only is there a rational basis for our constitutional definition of marriage, there is a compelling governmental interest in maintaining core Judeo-Christian values here in Texas. From the founding of the Republic, states have always maintained the right to define marriage. Whether it was a proscription on the ability of people to marry a first or second cousin or some other family member, or a prohibition on children getting married, states have always rightfully been the ones to define who could and who could not marry.”

All of those arguments essentially followed the script used by opponents of interracial marriage when the U.S. Supreme Court considered state bans on such unions in the 1967 Loving v. Virginia case. Like Smitherman, the Virginia judge who initially heard the case against Mildred and Richard Loving referenced religious beliefs as a rationale for the state barring interracial marriage:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents…. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Like Gov. Perry and Cruz, the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals — in upholding the state law barring the Lovings from marrying each other — insisted that states alone have the right to make decisions on marriage. As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in the Loving decision, the Virginia court “reasoned that marriage has traditionally been subject to state regulation without federal intervention, and, consequently, the regulation of marriage should be left to exclusive state control by the Tenth Amendment.”

In addition to warning about the “mongrelization” of the races, some critics in 1967 (and still today) worried aloud about the children of interracial couples — much the same as critics today insist that children of same-sex couples are at risk (despite ample evidence to the contrary).

Partly because this is an election year and partly because right-wing pressure groups have so much invested in demonizing LGBT people and their families, we expect the rhetoric surrounding Judge Garcia’s decision will remain heated for a while. But we suspect that, in the end, history will judge Perry, Cruz and other like-minded politicians as harshly as it does those who denounced interracial marriage and Loving v. Virginia in 1967.

17 thoughts on “Texas Politicians Make the Case for Upholding State Bans on Interracial Marriage

  1. Mildred Loving, who with her husband Richard (both deceased) were the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case that struck down miscegenation laws, spoke out for marriage equality on June 12, 2007, the 40th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia announcement.
    “…Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.
    I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

  2. Smitherman should consult Wikipedia, at least, or maybe even a law book. He is running for attorney general, right?

    IANAL, but the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862 was a federal law that defined what wasn’t marriage. And then the Edmunds Act and the Edmunds-Tucker act made polygamy a felony. Look before leaping, Barry….

  3. I think Jimmy Carter must be right. He once opined that everything in America is about race. In other words, if we are talking about which company makes the biggest, longest, and heaviest baseball bats, we are really having a conversation about race in America. No matter what is going on in America and what it appears to be on the surface, the conversation is really about the chocolate people, or maybe the paprika people, sulfur people, or the caulked asians.

    From TFN’s lead post, it is obvious that our discussion about LGBT rights is really a discussion about chocolate people marrying vanilla people,which results in Belgian chocolate children.

    The scary thing though—the really scary thing—is that some people fail to see how silly this whole discussion and the way it sounds really are.

  4. Smitherman: “. . . there is a compelling governmental interest in maintaining core Judeo-Christian values here in Texas.”

    No there’s not. Smitherman is a Republican candidate for Texas Attorney General but he obviously doesn’t understand the law. “Judeo-Christian” values (there is no such thing since the two religions are completely separate and have totally different values, but I am not considering that here) are irrelevant to federal and state law. The Constitution created a SECULAR government in which the values of any one religion could not be given precedence over the values of other religions or non-religious philosophies. The law must be neutral between religious beliefs and between religious and non-religious beliefs. Separation between religion and government is explicitly required by the First Amendment and implicitly required by the original Constitution. That is the basis of secularism.

    That’s why there are TWO different types of marriage in the United States: civil marriage and religious marriage. Many religions consider marriage to be a sacrament and have specific requirements for the two individuals who are to be married. Since churches are private organizations, they can determine who can and cannot be married in their religious ceremonies. But civil marriage is different: it must follow the secular philosophy embedded in the Constitution and First Amendment. While religions are free to discriminate in marriage choice, Government cannot discriminate about who can be married or not except as decided by law (e.g. setting age limits, etc.). Since the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees equal protection of the law (for adult citizens), gays should be able to marry in civil ceremonies for the same reason that persons of different races should be able to marry. Both were forbidden by civil law in the past, but gradually the Supreme Court applied correct constitutional law and recognized their rights.

    You rarely read in the mainstream media about the secular civil marriage argument for allowing gay marriage; instead, all you read about is equal protection of the law. But the First Amendment is just as important as the Fourteenth. What has happened is that opponents of gay marriage, the Radical Religious Republican Right, has long framed the issue to their advantage, always speaking about the right of states to decided marriage law but never acknowledging that state law is subordinate to federal law and must recognize the principle of secularism. In fact, the Republican War on Marriage is just another effort by the Religious Right to force their version of theocracy on all American Citizens. The question of gay marriage only applies to CIVIL marriage, not to RELIGIOUS or sacramental marriage, but by constantly presuming that civil marriage must follow the tradition of one-man/one-woman, Republicans are substituting the authority of their religious dogmas and beliefs for civil law rather than the authority of the secular Constitution. This is classic framing and most people have fallen into the trap, including the mainstream media.

    Practically the only place you find the First Amendment argument is in the Amicus Brief supporting gay marriage of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Most briefs focus on the Tenth (states have the powers not reserved for the Federal government) and Fourteenth Amendments (which removed the states’ right to discriminate among its citizen without rational legal arguments and due process). But the First Amendment argument is essential because this is where all the emotion and hatred lies: Radical Religious Right-wing Republicans are really angry because gay civil marriage is another example where they are failing to keep their Fundamentalist Christian vise on civil society and its social practices. In fact, for anti-miscegenation and one-man/one-woman laws, civil marriage laws in the states historically followed the sacramental rules of Christian religions, but this has been gradually changing in our lifetimes as the historically-imposed American Christian Theocracy has been losing its grip and crumbling due to the desires and demands of many of its citizens demanding the same freedoms and liberties long reserved for others. The courts and legislatures have been slowly recognizing these desires for new freedoms and liberties and embedding them into civil law, just as the Founders intended.

    So the current story of gay aspirations for freedom, equality, and equal protection of the laws–just as the story of ethnic minority aspirations before them for the same freedoms and civil rights–is the story of America. With all the unnecessary wars, killing, and environmental destruction fueled by American religions, politics, and capitalism, this story is one of the few things we can still look at and still see the United States at its best: as a beacon for hope and freedom where common and traditional individual liberties are recognized under law and citizens can live the lives they choose without government oppression. Now if only we could choose to have clean air and water, conserve energy, and not pay taxes to enable the killing or exploitation of millions of innocent people on the other side of the world, we could be even happier for our country. But conditions do gradually change in our lifetimes.

  5. According to the Republicans, if the issue of slavery were placed on a ballot, and the voters passed it, we’d have slavery again — perhaps this time it would be blue-eyed individuals — and people would be denied their rights under the U.S. Constitution.

    The GOP is so ignorant. They can’t see beyond the end of their own noses. They can’t see the connection between two freedoms. Of course, Texas was a Confederate state, so it’s possible that some Republicans are still living in the past.

    Listen up, Texas GOP candidates, you simply are not allowed to deny rights to citizens in violation of their federal Constitutional rights. You can claim the 10th Amendment all day long, but it doesn’t supersede the 14th Amendment, which gives equal rights to everybody.

    Grow up and get over it!

  6. My question for Barry Smitherman and all of his right-wing Christian reactionary pals is: What constitutes “religion”? Do I have to belong to one of the major established religions or can I just declare my own religion? In fact, I think will: I hereby charter the First Church of Water Conservation. One commandment: Thou shalt not water your lawn. Now, can I go about discriminating against all the people here in So. Texas who pour zillions of gallons of precious DRINKING water on their non-native turf grass just ’cause it’s so purty?
    The US Military in the 1970s ruled that any active duty officer who harbors an objection to war that is based on beliefs EQUIVALENT in personal depth to traditional religous doctrine, then those beliefs — regardless of how personalized — are valid grounds for granting conscientious objector status. Shouldn’t that standard be applied whenever “religious freedom” is touted. But then, what about religious freedom for a group that espouses human sacrifice? Never mind…let’s just outlaw religion entirely and just all try to be nicer to each other.

  7. Sounds like the segregationist arguments from the 50’s and 60’s. “Activist judges.” “Tenth Amendment Rights” “States Rights”. Anybody remember the “Impeach Earl Warren” Outdoor Billboards?

    When you come right down to it, these are a bunch of warped, malevolent bigots who have no honest place in American society or government. George Wallace learned the hard way. Not condoning violence here. Just stating history. It is sad that that otherwise intelligent man held and used so much hate to climb to power, and it took a bullet and years of pain and paralysis before George Wallace finally realized what an evil fool he had been.

    We’re no better than some overseas ethics sniping at each other in Somalia, Syria, Egypt, or Sudan when politicians and their supporters behave like this.

  8. Everyone should read “Defending the Master Race”, JP Spiro, U of Vermont Press, 2009. Its a well done biographic history of Madison Grant and the development of Western & American scientific racism, ie eugenics, antimiscegenation, turn of the century progressives and pseudo-science, conservation, anti-Semitism, immigration restriction policy, Sanger and conception control, etc. In the context of this tome its not difficult to see how more than a century later 10th Amendment screed about who can mate with whom still dominates our body politic; how this supports elitism and conserves social structures of yesteryear in the eyes of many, and still drives genetic & thus neurobehavioral determinism in psychology/psychiatry, disability studies, and modern social pseudoscience. Remember that homosexuality was a dreaded disease, the pervasive scourge of humanity, which was completely eliminated by miraculous modern medicine in one day (publishing a new version of DSM), but we still haven’t found the SNP cause of this horrific disease, this perversion (genetic “cause”, the basis of all disease). Its also a great explication of how human symbolic phenomenology can be completely disconnected from basic simian behavior biology in the name of power, which is why we see this continuity of exclusionary practices and their rationalization in large segments of American society now, as well as the continued bastardization of good science.

  9. These conservatives are sick scum. When Mittens was my gov here in MA and it was legal to marry the one u loved, regardless of gay/straight, he didnt want people to come from other states to get married here cause they couldn’t get married in their state… He used a law that was still in the books but obviously not used fur decades, a 1967 law that was created so black/white “interracial” couples could not come here to get married from out if state. They was his big selling point when running for president calling it his way of keeping MA from being the Las Vegas for gay weddings. The law was dumped off the books shortly after. People can argue all they want about the differences if the civil rights era and the gay rights of today, but the truth is, the same words are used to demonized which ever minority wants equal rights. Conservatives have used this tactic since the beginning of time; Hitler, KKK, Puritans, etc. this is the reason why conservatives will always be on the “wrong side of history” because they literally use the same words for any minority, just changing the target, Hitler: Jews, Puritans: Quakers, KKK: non-whites. It’s actually scary to reread the words of Hitler and replace the word Jew with Muslim and you can see how it looks like someone from FOX wrote it!

  10. Well, Corey, if you ever study marine biology you will learn that the most fundamental rule of pond ecology is that the scum always rises to the top. Almost everyone mentioned in the book I referenced is a New England old money elitist pale male (living in Manhattan & in exclusive “clubs”) Puritan who came into that crowd because of direct certified lineage to the original Puritan colony (purest of blood & breeding). They were “Nordic” master race members, almost all of them without any children, failing the imperative to expand and sustain their master race while suppressing the “mongrel” amalgamation of the inferior races, the immigrant degenerate hordes. Of course they wanted to “conserve” their power and position in society, their ability to dictate to everyone else how to live, what to believe, what to say and do. Couldn’t have the half-breeds disappearing them with reproductive efficiency and the entire population becoming unintelligent because of genetic regression in the mixing of inferior races (or whatever other stigmatized group you want to substitute for “race”).