A couple of months ago, on Valentine's Day, Hubby and I snuggled up to watch the HBO documentary, "The Loving Story." What struck me as I watched the film, which is about the 1967 Supreme Court case that resulted in anti-miscegenation laws being ruled unconstitutional, were the arguments used to justify bans on interracial marriage:
"The Bible says it's wrong."
"If God wanted black and white people to marry, He wouldn't have put them on different continents."
"I don't have anything against black people, but I don't think they should be allowed to marry whites."
Oh, and of course:
My strongest reaction to "The Loving Story" wasn't at the glimpse of what life would have been like if I had met my husband 50 years ago instead of today, although that was definitely disconcerting. What really got me riled up was realizing that the arguments that were made against interracial marriage 50+ years ago are freakishly similar to the reasons given by opponents of gay marriage today. It is the same game, only the focus has shifted. How can we have come so far, but still be stuck in the same damn place?
And I just thought, Someday our country will be so ashamed and embarrassed by this. At least, I hope so.
We'll be ashamed and embarrassed that we allowed a group of people to be told they could not have the same rights as everyone else, because of who they love.
We'll be ashamed and embarrassed that this was hidden behind the guise of "family values" and "morality," while infidelity and divorce and abuse - which actually do tear at the fabric of family life -were opposed with only a fraction of the intensity with which gay marriage was attacked.
We'll be ashamed and embarrassed that we blamed discrimination on God, and let laws be passed on the basis of religious beliefs in a country where there is supposed to be a separation of church and state.
We'll be ashamed and embarrassed that we ignored science showing no evidence whatsoever that children of gay couples are worse off than children of heterosexual couples, and that there were children who grew up without families, because some people believed no family was better than a family with gay parents.
This is so clearly an issue of basic human rights. How we can deny someone the right to marry who they love is beyond me.
Yesterday North Carolina citizens voted in favor of amending their state constitution to ban gay marriage. I wasn't surprised, but I was so, so disappointed. (Before we start stereotyping the South, let's remember there are many people from NC who are heartbroken that this ban was passed. As I skimmed my news feed in Facebook today, I saw comments from several college friends who were born, raised, and still live in the Tar Heel state, but wishing today they lived somewhere else.)
I have hope that things will change. Just as the Supreme Court ruled decades ago that bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional, I am optimistic that someday the same will happen for gay marriage. Even though states keep passing these awful bans, on the national level public perception has finally tipped in support of gay marriage (50% in favor, 48% opposed...I guess 2% is undecided). Even better, the shift in beliefs about gay marriage is happening relatively quickly. Just over 15 years ago, only 27% of Americans believed gay marriage should be legal. And today, our President came out in support of gay marriage.
I'll end with this, an excerpt from the U.S. Supreme Court's 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia. How easily we could replace "race" with "sexual orientation":
Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.
For those of you who have stuck with me through this