Sunday, November 2, 2008

Inter-racial marriage and same-sex marriage prohibitions: they come from the same source

Saw this over at Larry's blog, Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time:
Obama's opposition, on the other hand, is not generational but calls upon the authority of God. It is self-reinforcing, self-replicating, and allows for no direct challenge. "God said, and that's the end of the story." Oh, "understandings" can be adjusted, interpretations of the Bible can change, but the idea of "god said" remains.

What is particularly outrageous about this is that Obama knows, he knows, he even referred to it, that at the time his parents got married in 1961, that act would have been illegal in a number of states. In fact, in 1883 the Supreme Court had upheld the constitutionality of "anti-miscegenation" laws, a ruling that was not overturned until 1964. And it wasn't until 1967, in Loving v. Virginia, that SCOTUS finally shot down the last laws barring interracial marriage.

In fact, according to one source, as recently as 1987, fewer than half of Americans thought it was appropriate for whites and blacks to date each other.

Why are interracial dating and marriage relevant here? Because, again as I believe Obama must know, Biblical authority was cited in support of those laws, just as it is cited now to justify discrimination against same-sex couples. Numerous passages were cited to "prove" that god intended for various races to remain forever separate. Those arguments did not appear in political tracts and campaigns, they were reflected in court decisions.

For example, the original trial judge in what became Loving wrote in his decision that
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.
Even more explicitly, in 1955 the Supreme Court of Virginia upheld the constitutionality of state law banning interracial marriage.
The Virginia Court cited precedent that marriage is "an institution established by God himself" and a "civilizing, Christianizing institution" and that a ban on interracial marriage is "clearly divine."
We have been down this road so many times before. Biblical quotes have been used across the years in defense of bigotry and hatred. To justify slavery. To justify the oppression of women. To justify banning interracial relationships. And now to justify banning same-sex marriage. We simply refuse to learn the lesson that "god said" can perhaps be a fair guide to personal morality, it is a singularly lousy, even dangerous, guide to public policy.
Of course there has also been the misuse of evolutionary theory in order to serve the same purposes. The eugenics movement that had its origins in the writings of Galton, and which spawned some rather ugly legislation in the US and one of the most horrific genocides of modern humanity (i.e., the Nazi extermination of Jews, Poles, gays, Roma, etc.), was premised on the inherent "defects" of the various "untermenschen" who were targeted for elimination. Interracial marriage was prohibited in many states across the US on the basis that interbreeding between those of European (and in particular Aryan stock) and those of African or American Indian stock would lead to a decrease in the overall intelligence of the US citizenry, and with that increase any of a plethora of societal ills. If anything, according to eugenicist reasoning, not only should interracial marriage be prohibited, but those belonging to the supposed "inferior" races should be sterilized - forcibly if need be. Of course, that particular secular reasoning did resonate with entrenched religiously-inspired prejudices in the US - especially the Calvinist strain that has haunted the American Zeitgeist since the Puritans first landed on the North American continent.

Not to worry, it is safe to say that there is a confluence of these same basic eugenicist and religious-based prejudices at work when it comes to any discussion about homosexuality and same-sex marriage. On the religious side, just spend some time reading or listening to the pronouncements of any of a number of evangelical leaders or politicians - Sen. Cornyn (R-TX), who's set to win re-election in a landslide (which by the way does not surprise me), once contended that same-sex marriage would lead to men marrying box turtles. Don't forget former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), raises the usual bogeymen of pedophilia and bestiality when discussing the issue of same-sex marriage. Both of these men, by the way, love to play up their religious zeal. But not to worry, there are at least a few good eugenicists out there, including my own field, psychology, who are kindred spirits when it comes to homosexuality. J. Michael Bailey comes readily to mind. Steve Sailer, who usually likes to harp on a lot of the same racist drivel that characterized the first generation of eugenicists a century ago, also likes to offer his pronouncements on homosexuality, spreading a "gay germ" theory initially concocted by Gregory Cochran. It's worth keeping in mind that just like right-wing religious folks, adherents of eugenics pseudoscience aren't going away, and will continue to advocate (and practice) prejudicial social practices as a means of controlling those members of targeted groups and excusing unjust treatment.

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