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

Posts tagged ‘miscegenation laws’

Governor Christy – the majority is NOT always right

Governor of New Jersey at a town hall in Hills...

Image courtesy of: http://bit.ly/11aCWSW

Governor Christy, the moderate Republican governor of New Jersey, has made his position on marriage equality abundantly clear. He is against it. Nonetheless, he is willing to accept same-sex marriage if a majority of the people of New Jersey, by referendum, tell him to. The granting of basic civil and human rights to a minority should never be left to the will of the majority.  These rights, including the right to marry someone of one’s choosing, are not the majority’s to “give”. It is the epitome of arrogance for the Governor to think otherwise, even if he is willing to go along with the majority on the issue.

Governor Christy has now compounded his error. On Wednesday’s Ask the Governor radio show on NJ 101.5 FM, the Governor condemned the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision voiding a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act. He said the decision was not only “bad”, but “just another example of judicial supremacy rather than … the government [being] run by the people we actually vote for,” and “incredibly insulting to those … members of Congress who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Governor Christy’s words are astounding in light of this country’s history. Majorities have abridged and, in some instances, obliterated minority rights. Surely, he needs no reminder:

  • of the Jim Crow laws, enacted by the majority, that relegated African-Americans to second-class citizens and assured that the White majority would never suffer African-American proximity in restaurants, movies, hotels, schools and bathrooms to mention only a few legislated locations;
  • of the miscegenation laws, enacted by the majority, that banned inter-racial marriage in many states so that the blood of the White majority would not be diluted;
  • of the sexist laws that gave control over females’ bodies to the male legislative majority who enacted those laws;
  • of the homophobic laws, like the Defense of Marriage Act,  enacted by the majority, that withheld rights and benefits because the sexual orientation of the affected individuals was different from that of the majority, and that

the Supreme Court of the United States protected the rights of the minority in all of these cases.

Governor Christy should be applauded for providing moderation at a time when moderation is critically important to the viability of our two-party system of government. However, the Governor is running for reelection and harbors Presidential aspirations, both of which may account for Wednesday’s blatant appeal to the Conservative faction of his party. His position on marriage equality, his re-election campaign and his political aspirations aside, the Governor’s denouncement of the Supreme Court’s role in insuring minority rights is foolish in light of the majority’s history of malevolence. Whether by referendum or by legislative enactment, the majority cannot be the ultimate arbiter of minority rights. Sadly, that reality should be apparent to all Americans, including Governor Christy.

See, http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2013/06/27/chris-christie-denounces-doma-ruling, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/new-jersey-gov-chris-christie-rips-supreme-court-doma-decision-article-1.1384015 and http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/06/christie_gay_marriage.html

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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