Looking Backward: DOMA and Loving v. Virginia

Looking Backward: DOMA and Loving v. Virginia

A few weeks ago, New York City was flooded with color, costume, and delight as the annual Gay Pride Parade wound its way through Greenwich Village and mid-town Manhattan. This June’s event, always a festive occasion, drew special energy—and unusually high numbers of participants– from the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rejection of California’s Defense of Marriage Act, signaling the highest court’s support for same-sex marriage, already legal in states like New York and Massachusetts, but contested in many other states of our union (Note the July 2 New York Times article on this issue).

The giddy celebration of this development brought to mind another important Supreme Court decision that supported couples too long denied the benefits of contract: Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 ruling that declared all miscegenation statutes in the United States unconstitutional. The case was famously brought before the Supreme Court by Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple forced into exile from their home state of Virginia by local laws that had incarcerated them for their marriage just weeks after their wedding in 1958.

Loving v. Virginia is one of several cases, hinging upon the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution, that constitutes precedent for the court’s recent determination regarding the California Defense of Marriage Act. As articles in The Atlantic Wire, and Slate have noted, opponents of same-sex marriage have invoked the same arguments concerning the supposedly bleak future of children raised by such couples, that were once raised in connection with parents and of mixed race.

To many in America’s so-called “millennial” generation–who, according to a recent survey by the Pew Charitable Trust, do not experience or perceive racial difference—or even same-sex relationships–in the negative light that preceding generations once did—it may be difficult to appreciate what a huge difference Loving v. Virginia made for those of us who belonged to that narrow– less than 3%–of American couples who took the chance of making lifetime commitments to loved ones across racial lines in the 1950s and 1960s (when it was not yet legal in many parts of the U.S.); or even in the 1970s and 1980s (when it was legal, but often carried a considerable socio-economic stigma). Some of us can tell pretty harrowing tales—of confrontations with family members, and police officers; of friendships that ended; of job opportunities sacrificed; of neighborhoods we couldn’t move into, perfect strangers who threatened us, and our families…and so on…and so on…

Mildred and Richard Loving

Mildred and Richard Loving (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To those who did not live through such times, these stories can seem apocryphal, almost like fairy tales about fighting with dragons in some evil, enchanted forest. And yet, even in our new, enlightened, twenty-first century, it seems to some of us that there’s still plenty of work to be done to make our society a truly equal one—not only for gay couples, who continue to face various forms of discrimination in many parts of the United States (note the recent study of housing discrimination, for example, by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) –but for families of all ethnicities.

What are we to think of the persistent inequities that undermine our public education system, recently discussed, for example, by Leonie Haimson and Diane Ravitch in The Nation? What are we to think of the continued racial biases in our criminal justice system, as noted by Patricia Williams in the same publication? Of the Paula Deen scandal, noted in this blog? And–lest we might imagine that these racial biases no longer inform our thinking about the intersection between race and family–how about the recent furor over that ad for Cheerios cereal that featured the bi-racial family—and got so much hate commentary that General Mills had to disable their youtube comment section for the video??

As we reflect on the legacy of Loving v. Virginia, forty-six years old this last June, Interrace Today wishes to remind readers that we welcome comments and submissions from all perspectives—from readers who may never have known a time when America did not think of itself as richly diverse in every possible way; as well as readers who remember the struggles of the last century. Whether you consider the personal to be political—or believe those two things should never overlap– Interrace Today is a publication dedicated to celebrating the spectrum of opinion across our multi-cultural society.

In entire court term, justices see 1 black lawyer – Yahoo! News

In entire court term, justices see 1 black lawyer – Yahoo! News

English: United States Supreme Court building ...

English: United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., USA. Front facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In entire court term, justices see 1 black lawyer – Yahoo! News.

What can be said about this except for the obvious sadness in the headline. Despite whatever advance we may as a country have made education in this country is still more about warehousing than education and is still parceled out according to wealth and status.

I wish schools were different but they are not and never will be. Young minority children need more than rappers and bas

ketballers to look up to, and when the schools themselves segreate quality and class sizes according to ethnicity and wealth and status, it’s ultimately the same as it was fifty years ago if not worse. (Then you could take electives such as shop class, auto mechanics, music, art. Now most schools no longer have these classes.)

It’s just a damn depressing headline that doesn’t surprise me, but is just a sad reminder of where we really are in this country.

Gay marriage at the Supreme Court: Did interracial marriage opponents claim to be helping the children? – Slate Magazine

Gay marriage at the Supreme Court: Did interracial marriage opponents claim to be helping the children? – Slate Magazine.

As the battle over whether or not gay people should be allowed to marry in the United States (which quite honestly makes me fee ashamed and embarrassed to even admit that in this day and age there’s a debate raging as to whether or not gay people should be allowed to marry), many lawyers are comparing the issue of gay marriage to that of interracial marriage.


English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the two are certainly not the same, there are similarities, the primary one of which being that we’re discussing (and debating) essentially whether or not said gay individuals are human and hence deserving of full human rights under the law. This is what makes it ridiculous.

Malcolm X and Dr. King knew that for for racial equality to stand a chance in the U.S. they had to make it an international human rights matter and involved other nations into shaming us.

Civil Rights March on Washington, leaders marc...

Civil Rights March on Washington, leaders marching from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They took it beyond the localized political debate realm. It was no longer a matter of local opinion, but a global human rights violation. This is why there were so many iconic photographic images of the civil rights movement. Dr. King wanted photos. Lots of photos. So did Brother Malcolm. The more photos of unarmed peaceful civil rights protestors being beaten and attacked, the better.

So it is (to me) in many ways with marriage equality. I don’t know if gay people protest for equal rights on the same level as African Americans did during the civil rights movement, but if gay marriage equality is denied or simply ignored by the Supreme Court I’d say peaceful protests should be a no-brainer. And there should be photos. Lots and lots of photos. Especially when police freak out over the appearance of crowds of protestors and commence beating anyone in sight (as they did with the Occupy movement and every other peaceful protest movement in the past). Failure to enlarge the scope of the issue is to keep it in the “ghetto” where it can never be resolved.

Whether or not gay people are entitled to marry is a resounding – of course they should be allowed. They’re human and this is a human rights issue – not a local political issue. When we see this is a human rights violation and not a political issue more progress will be made in my humble estimation.