But what will Americans years down the road think when they examine our era? In , when the Niagara Movement -- forerunner to the NAACP -- was born, nowhere was the color line more heat-tempered and rock-hard than when it came to sex. The prohibition against interracial marriage was a national obsession, enshrined in both law and tradition. As early as , Maryland earned the distinction of becoming the first colony to ban marriages between blacks and whites.
The other southern colonies played catch-up in the decades that followed. Pennsylvania and Massachusetts also joined the pack.
In the 19th century, interracial marriage was illegal in most states. As the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund noted in a brief in a New Jersey case, "by the s, at least 41 states had enacted anti-miscegenation statutes. Fact and God played heavily in the judgments. The Georgia Supreme Court in based its interracial marriage ban on natural law, observing that "the God of nature made it otherwise, and no human law can produce it, and no human tribunal can enforce it.
Racial separation is enacted not because of "prejudice, nor caste, nor injustice of any kind, but simply to suffer men to follow the law of races established by the Creator himself, and not to compel them to intermix contrary to their instincts.
The reasoning was simple and absolute: Marriage between the races defied the natural order; intermarriage bans had legitimate historical roots and were based on a "divinely ordained" scheme.
Government had the right to define marriage as a union of two persons of the same race. It remained that way for generations, until , when the U. Supreme Court, in Loving v.
Virginia, ruled that state laws setting forth who can marry whom violate "one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men" -- marriage -- and the "principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment. 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. Now fast-forward past today to years from now.
How will future generations view our present-day fight against allowing monogamous couples with life commitments to each other to marry? What will they think of our rush to enact state laws prohibiting same-sex life partners from joining the same institution shared by different-sex couples?
How will they regard our assertion that there is a public interest in promoting discrimination in the marriage statute? Let's get one issue out of the way before the e-mails and letters start flooding in. I don't equate the long, bloody struggle of African Americans against racial injustice, ugly brutality and unjust treatment with the effort to give equal rights to lesbians and gay men.
But I do believe that homosexuals are subject to prejudice and that they are forbidden the same rights and safeguards that heterosexuals enjoy, including the right to marry.
That, in my book, is wrong. There is justice to their cause that should be ours, too. Leaving the security of the majority to stand up and say so ought not be so hard in Sadly, for many Americans, it is.
Just as it was