Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Love, the Lovings, and The Supreme Court Rulings on Gay Marriage

      In March, 1924, the state of Virginia established a "Racial Integrity Act" plus a "Sterilization Act" that brings to mind the Nuremburg laws.  The Virginia laws required that every person be categorized at birth as "white" or "colored" and defined race by the "one-drop rule," meaning that any person with "one drop" of African blood must be categorized "colored."  The laws criminalized all marriages between "white" and "colored" as well as mandating sterilization of any person deemed "feebleminded."  Wealthy first families of Virginia claiming descent from the Indian princess Pocohantas got an exception . . . the one drop rule hardly applied to them.  Even if they had one-sixteenth Indian blood, they remained "white" under Virginia law.
     As gay people finally get to tie the knot, I hope we all remember how American ideas about race interfered with marriage in 1967 and beyond.  And how bizarre our ideas about sex continue to be.  How many folks commenting on the front-page New York Times article on the Supreme Court rulings complained that gay people ought to be content with legal partnerships, not marriage.  Separate but equal, the dismal failure that made a charade out of the right to equal treatment under the law,  continues to haunt us.  And it's all about sex.  Who's having it, who isn't, when it's legit, when it isn't . . . the Christian Right's temper tantrum about gay marriage just won't go away.  Witness: 

So, back to the Lovings, who were charged under Section 20-58 of the Virginia Code, which prohibited interracial couples from being married out of state and then returning to Virginia, and Section 20-59, which classified "miscegenation"--now, there's an archaic concept-- as a felony, punishable by a prison sentence of between one and five years. The trial judge in the case, Leon M. Bazile, reveling in the archaism, proclaimed: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix. ” On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pled guilty and got sent to prison with the sentence suspended for 25 years on condition that the couple leave the state of Virginia. They did so, moving to the District of Columbia. 
 "Tell the court I love my wife!" Richard Loving said to his lawyer, who was to argue the case before the Supreme Court. 
 And the Supreme Court did listen. 
 And now, the Supreme Court listened to gay people too. 
 America the beautiful!

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