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Thursday, October 27, 2016

In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in an aptly named case called Loving v. Virginia. The court struck down laws that banned interracial marriage so that Richard and Mildred Loving could live together as husband and wife without the harassment of Virginia authorities.

It’s hard to explain that court case to Americans under the age of 35. They find it hard to believe that their country — this great democracy — once countenanced laws that forbade marriage between blacks and whites. But not so very long ago, many states believed they had every right to tell people who to love.

Some states still do. While they’ve moved away from any prohibitions on interracial marriage, they cling to old prejudices against marriages of gay couples.

Just last week, a Louisiana federal court judge ruled in favor of that state’s ban on same-sex unions, insisting that Louisiana has every right to define marriage as it sees fit. The state “has a legitimate interest … whether obsolete in the opinion of some, or not … in linking children to an intact family formed by their two biological parents,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Martin L.C. Feldman.

The ruling stunned gay rights advocates because it was the first significant setback in the long march to marriage equality since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act last year. Twenty-one consecutive federal court rulings have found same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional.

If you believe that judges are neutral arbiters of the law, well, you haven’t been paying attention. Feldman, a Reagan appointee, perfectly reflects the social mores of his ultra-conservative region.

His ruling was a tour de force of ancient prejudices and antediluvian nonsense, including his linkage of marriage and procreation. As a middle-aged newlywed with an adopted daughter, I wonder whether he thinks my heterosexual union is less legitimate because my husband and I will bear no children together.

Feldman said he relied on “a meaning of … marriage that has endured in history for thousands of years,” ignoring the fact that slavery, too, endured for centuries. (I must also point out that the meaning of marriage that “endured in history” for centuries allowed a man to marry as many women as he could afford. Yet, the U.S. outlawed polygamy in the 19th century.) And, yes, he trotted out well-worn comparisons between homosexuality and incest: “Must the states permit or recognize a marriage between an aunt and niece? Aunt and nephew? Brother/brother? Father and child?”

While the analogy to the battle over interracial marriage is not a perfect one, there are many similarities. One was the argument that “natural law” — or God’s law — viewed marriage between blacks and whites as abhorrent.

Invalidating the marriage of a black man and a white woman in 1878, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that “the purity of public morals, the moral and physical development of both races … require that they should be kept distinct and separate … that connections and alliances so unnatural that God and nature seem to forbid them, should be prohibited by positive law, and be subject to no evasion.”

Despite his insistence that he simply followed centuries of tradition, the law that Feldman upheld has a recent vintage: a Louisiana state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that was passed in 2004. Similar amendments were passed in 10 other states, the result of a cynical ploy by Karl Rove to assure the re-election of George W. Bush. Rove knew that putting such amendments on state ballots would drive up turnout among conservative Christians, who usually vote for Republicans.

In the decade since, much has changed. Public sentiment now supports gay unions; a Gallup poll in May found that 55 percent of Americans believe that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized as legally valid, with the same rights as heterosexual couples.

In 2007, a year before her death, Mildred Loving issued a statement in support of gay marriage. “I am still not a political person, but … I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about,” she said.

She was right, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court is bound to agree and deliver marriage equality to all citizens. Slowly but surely, the union grows more perfect.

Cynthia Tucker won Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at [email protected]

Photo: Kevin Goebel via Flickr

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  • adler56

    How long will it be before we read about this Judge trying to hook up in some men’s bathroom in Baton Rouge?

    • Whatmeworry

      Cynthia can be found every day trying to

  • ExRadioGuy15

    Judge Feldman is a Fascist Con GOP psychopath….he was appointed by Ronald Reagan and confirmed in 1983…that explains everything 🙁 ssmdh

  • Lovefacts

    This ruling will be overturned. Article IV, Section 1 of the US Constitution: “Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state….” This provides that all legal contracts in a state, territory, or possession are honored throughout the United States.

    Given marriage is a state-sanctioned, legally-binding civil contract entitling spouses and children to specific legal benefits and privileges, what is recognized in one state is recognized throughout the land. And while a religious ceremony is wonderful, it will NOT confer full legal benefits and privileges until registered with the required governmental agency.

    Due to the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, religions will NOT have to marry or acknowledge the marriages of same-sex couples. However, because the US Constitution clearly provides that all legal marriages in a state, territory, or possession MUST be recognized throughout the land, same-sex marriages will be considered legally binding in the other 49 states, territories, and possessions.

    • Whatmeworry

      Really?? Then are carry permits from some states not allowed in others??

      • Lovefacts

        No. Carry permits are NOT contracts. What many people don’t realize is that marriage is a state sanctioned civil contract. So, all state recognize legal contracts from one state to another. If they didn’t, each couple would have to remarry in each state they lived in.

        • Allan Richardson

          Which would give the wedding planner business a real boost!

        • Whatmeworry

          Sorry its no different than a divers license

    • Allan Richardson

      That was what the delay in admitting Utah to the union was all about: pre-empting the need for the other states to recognize polygamous marriages performed under Mormon-dominated Utah (AKA Deseret) laws by not letting Utah/Deseret become a state at all (as a territory, federal law was in force, and Brigham Young (and often) only had one legal wife). Eventually, when the Mormon Apostles had a divine revelation that polygamy was a sin after all, Utah got the green light.

      Presumably, this principle should also apply to adoptions. There are some states that do not allow ANY gay couples, or even gay people living alone, to adopt children, regardless of their other virtues or the urgent need to find parents for these children. In the past, and possibly today, those same states usually ruled the same way about interracial adoptions. But if a couple or single person (gay in one case, possibly straight in the other) who have adopted a child in another state move to one of these more restrictive states, their child is still their child, and must be recognized as such.

  • huntingfreedominAmerica

    Why do writers of these stories say we are a democracy when in fact were a republic if were going to ever take the Liberal slant from our country print the facts. The rest of the story might be good but if the first part in not right the rest is not worth reading. Every government ran by a democracy has turned Socialist or Communist powers with dictators. Our words have power to change thoughts and facts.

    • Asemodeus

      That’s because the difference between the words democratic and republic are mostly minimal and not worth getting worked up over. Madison was the first to make up the difference but later recanted in the 1830s that the two words are mostly interchangeable.

      The full definition of America is a Constitutionally Limited Representative Democratic Republic.

      The Constitution limits the government. We elect representatives based on a winner takes all democratic system. Lastly, we are a republic which limits the power of the tyranny of the majority by barring certain civil rights from ever being voted on by the mob.

      • joe schmo

        Really, then why is it, at the moment, weighing so heavily in the Socialist/Marxist direction? A democracy only works if both sides work together. No president should be bias, but this one certainly is….

        • Asemodeus

          Obama’s bias is clearly towards reality, which is why you cannot notice it.

          • BillP

            Schmo loves to try to push this Socialist/Marxist crap in most of his comments though he never backs it up with any provable facts.

        • charleo1

          So I want to go to the polls, and deny you your path to pursue your happiness. Now, work with me on this. See, my church says, and I believe, my Rights to religious freedom are clear. Up to, and including excluding you from the Rights I enjoy, that are, after all approved by the Church, as sacrosanct. See, under my freedom of religion, my Rights are protected. And well, yours, if they vary from mine, are not. So, I fail to see why you’re getting so upset, and hard to get along with! Just lie down, and die! Like, in the, immortal words of Patrick Henry, “Give me my Liberty, and to Hell with yours!” Look, how are my Rights expanded to denying yours at all, if we hold a referendum, and the majority decides to take yours away? We held a vote, and that should be that. Now, quit trying to be so difficult, and divisive. We still have a Constitution. Only now, it’s better! After the precedent was set under Libertarian Rand Paul, and Chief Justice, Jimmy Swaggart, to allow the glorious union of Church, and State. And thereby, disallowing certain, non-Christian religions, and Democrats. We’re freer than ever! And, by banning the views, and concepts, of the, unholy, and hedonistic, Soddum and Gomorrah, Secularist Liberals. And their Muslim,illegal Mexican enabling, Homosexual agenda! Including the Godless trade unions, and Public Schools, indoctrinating our youth with Communist fairy tales, and science! We can finally get about the business of really taking our Country back! Too bad about yours. Now, shut up, and quit trying to cause trouble. Or you won’t like where we send trouble makers. We’re supposed to be working together here! Yep, sounds like Liberty, and Freedom to me!

        • Joyce

          just shut up your stupid mouth, schmo. Every time you post, you show how stupid you really are

    • charleo1

      Why would we ever want to take, “the liberal slant,” of restricting the power of the State over the individual? Or, making those restrictions uniform throughout our Country? And, when was it that the so called, Conservatives, developed such a problem with calling our Republic’s representative form of government, “a democracy?” Or a problem with the fact our laws are based on small, “d,” democratic principles? And why do you think, did the Conservative Right start opposing the equal, and uniform application of the, 5th, and 14th Amendments? And how is it the Conservatives, who are constantly warning about authoritarian regimes, actually seem to agree with the vast majority of authoritarians in those regimes? Who, as they have demonstrated, have no problem with putting the Rights of their citizens up for a vote. Then limiting the vote, and declaring themselves the winner. Did you realize, that in the vast number of dictatorships, that the dictator in question won by landslide? Why do you think that is? Because the people had too much democracy? Were too Liberal? Worried too much about the franchise of the vote being mucked around with Discarded the proof to the contrary, that the elections were rife with fraud. And said to their leaders, do whatever it takes! And if some are denied their Rights in the process, that’s fine by us! Didn’t think if, that guy’s voting Rights can be taken away by a lie, or if that other person’s Civil Liberties can be denied by popular referendum. Then, what’s to stop my Civil Rights from being taken away in the same manner? Because we’re a Republic? And not a democracy, and that’s the difference? That here in Texas, for example, we don’t recognize your marriage as legal. Because in Texas, as a matter of State’s Rights, we choose not to recognize all of the Constitutional Amendments for all of the people. We believe, the greatest freedom of all is to be had in taking away the freedoms we enjoy from other people, we deem as unworthy, or sinful. As we reserve the State’s power to enforce our version of morality here in Texas. Don’t like it? Move! Are you really, “hunting for freedom in America?” It can be found and secured, only by the equal protection of each and everyone’s individual Civil Rights, across the length, and breadth of our Democratic Republic.

  • Bruce_in_PD

    This will be appealed, and contrary to the efforts of religious bigots, marriage equality WILL become the law of the land. The parallels of Gay Civil Rights with Afro-American Civil Rights are incredibly similar. In most, cases, you can substitute just a single word: “Black” or “Gay”, and the hysterical fulminations of fundamentalists is crystal clear.
    One thing this DOES point ouot is the importance of appointing/electing Federal judges whose roots are not firmly planted in the days of “Jim Crow”. It’s especially ironic that this is occuring in the “land of the free, and the home of the brave”– because it espouses neither freedom, nor bravery to attempt to block civil rights for “those people” that one firmly claims for themself. It’s hypocrisy at it ugliest.

    • joe schmo

      Of course it will, just another chink in the armor of the decadence found at the end of the Roman Empire.

      I have no problem with homosexuality. To each their own. I just don’t want it shoved down my throat and in my face.

      • Allan Richardson

        So the fact that two homosexuals who are complete strangers to you, whom you will probably never meet, are able to share their love (not yours or mine, but theirs) and their lives, take care of each other in sickness and in health, share the benefits of joint tax returns, visit each other in the hospital as family, not just friends, and in the worst case, when widowed, have the right to supervise each others’ funerals, somehow SHOVES something down YOUR throat and in YOUR face?

        • BillP

          Thanks for such a thoughtful and intelligent reply to Schmo. He is always complaining that some policy or life style is being shoved down his throat. He also likes to reference the Roman Empire but I think he protests too much.

        • jointerjohn

          No thinking, serious bigot would ever express his objection to homosexuality with a reference to anything being shoved into anyone else’s throat. Do these Nazis like Joe ever even think about what they are saying?

          • Joyce

            Unfortunatey, jointerjohn, these bigots do not think, especially this schmo character

  • charles king

    Cynthia Tucker, you have done it again, You have given the uninformed citizens some ” food for thought ” this is What? the good citizens need because MONIES are trying to make a mocery out of our Democracy. We the People can handle any problems with some Critical Thinking and the Vote. Give the People the real facts about any situation We can come together and make a path to an agreeable and honorable ending for all parties. Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. Mr. C. E. KING

  • shearwater

    Natural marriage of a man with a woman creates the most healthy environment for children and is God’s idea. When that is interrupted with confused values and sexual perversion, society goes down as it did with the Roman Empire.

    • browninghipower


      • shearwater

        Read the history of Rome and you will find that about 800 years of their dominance as a world power was shaken when immorality and sexual perversion was widespread. God has strong words for those who call evil good and good evil as this administration is doing. As Billy Graham, the noted evangelist once said, “God will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorah if he does not judge America for its immorality.” Political correctness calls good evil and evil good as we see today. Of course, if you do not believe in a moral universe, you are blind to the reality of the past and have to deal with that at the existential level of your own experience. Our nation is being judge right now by the people we have elected to govern and the sh-t is going to hit the fan very soon!

        • browninghipower

          zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzI have a degree in History from an Ivy League University. I read history and the Fall of Rome differently. Moral depravity was not the reason for Rome’s decline and fall you moron. God had nothing to do with it. Goths, Visigoths, too much expansion, too much PARTISANSHIP, too little economic distribution, etc etc. did them in. I hope you’re not a teacher.

          • 2ThinkN_Do2

            Everything you mentioned, plus the lifestyles mentioned by shearwater combined are what made the society, ours is on the same path. Powers outside the realm of tangible existence, do not need to be brought into the equation.

  • Nadia

    marriage is between a man and a woman, that sounds like marriage equality to me.