Author of Adam and Steve, a novel about reexamining your prejudices

Posts tagged ‘Loving v. Virginia’

Dr. Carson – you know better.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA [North American Man/Boy Love Association], be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are, they don’t get to change the definition [of marriage]”, so said Baltimore’s renowned neurosurgeon, Benjamin Carson on Fox News. Dr. Carson apologized for his “not the best choice of words,” by explaining what he meant. He said, “no group of individuals, whoever they are, whatever their belief systems, gets to change traditional definitions.” The doctor was wrong on two counts.

First, far too many people unfairly and indefensibly equate homosexuality with pedophilia or bestiality, and then use that equation as a scare tactic to limit the rights of homosexuals. Homosexuality, like heterosexuality, has nothing to do with sexual predatory behavior. Sexual predators, whether towards children or animals, can be either homosexual or heterosexual. As we are all too well aware, a sexual predator may even have taken a vow of celibacy. There is simply no statistic that evidences sexual predatory behavior as being more prevalent in homosexuals. In fact, the statistics prove otherwise. In 1995 when homophobia was far more rampant than it is today, local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse, of whom, 75% were girls. http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims.

Second, although many states have defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, their definition isn’t sacrosanct. Contrary to Dr. Carson’s belief, the Supreme Court is one group of individuals who can and did change the traditional definition of marriage. Not long ago a significant number of states in these United States defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman of the same race. In Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court found unconstitutional all  laws barring interracial marriage. In the time it took to write its opinion, the Court changed the traditional definition of marriage forever.

The Supreme Court based its expanded definition of marriage on the legal principle that “marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.” The Court used the word “man” to identify the beneficiary of the right of marriage. If the Court meant to limit the right to males only, then gays are surely within the benefitted group. Of course, the Court meant no such thing. Rather, the Court assured that the civil right to marry benefitted all mankind. The Court could have confirmed Dr. Carson’s traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, albeit without regard to race, but chose not to.

Dr. Carson is too smart and too old not to understand that our traditional definition of marriage was born of injustice. Over time, we change definitions to include the rights of the disenfranchised, whether, for example, they be women or African-Americans.  Our willingness to expand those benefitting from our civil rights is what makes America great and unique among the countries of the world.

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Dr. Benjamin Solomon Carson. Photo courtesy of: http://www.biography.com/people/ben-carson-475422

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The Loving precedent

Mildred and Richard Loving

Mildred and Richard Loving (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was 1958. They were from Small Point, Virginia, young, pregnant and so much in love that they travelled to the District of Columbia to marry. As husband and wife they returned home to Small Point to raise their family.

This sounds like a happy ending for a typical American couple.  The couple, however, was not typical and this wasn’t the ending, but the beginning of a nightmare. The couple, Mildred and Richard Loving, were awakened one night to a home invasion orchestrated by their local police. They were arrested and charged under Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, making it illegal for the Lovings, a white man and African-American/Native American woman, to be married.

Virginia’s punishment for this felonious crime of inter-racial marrying was “confinement in the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years.” A grand jury issued an indictment, the Lovings pled guilty, and they were sentenced to jail. The judge, however, suspended the sentence on the condition that the Lovings leave Virginia. In his opinion, the judge explained the legitimacy of Virginia’s racist laws.

“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.”

Rather than live outside their home state of Virginia, the Lovings ultimately took their case to the Supreme Court.  Finding that “marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man’, fundamental to our very existence and survival,” the Court ruled all mixed-racial marriage bans were void as a violation of both the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the Federal Constitution (388 US 1 (1967)).

 The Loving case will be used in arguments before the Supreme Court scheduled to occur this March to overturn same-sex marriage bans.  Thanks to the Lovings, marriage and the right to choose one’s marital partner are now basic civil rights in America.

Today, same-sex couples cannot marry in Virginia and their lawful marriages outside Virginia are not recognized in Virginia. Virginia’s once-upon-a-time blatant racial intolerance will be used to help end the nation’s gay intolerance.  It’s funny how your worst behavior can come back to bite you.

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