Thing the first: My husband wrote this piece and published it on Facebook, and if you are not friends with us there, or haven’t read it yet, please do:
“My parents were married in 1974. Had they been married just seven years earlier, they could have been arrested and thrown in jail in Virginia or fifteen other states if they had stepped foot there. Their marriage would have been a felony, a crime worthy of imprisonment. Why? Because my mom is as white as a blank sheet of paper, and my dad is as brown as a strong cup of Indian tea, and therefore their relationship was considered unnatural. God didn’t intend them to marry. Marriage between two people of different races would result in unhealthy, mentally retarded or even sterile children. God put different people of different colors on different continents specifically to prevent them from marrying.
A U.S. representative from Georgia declared that allowing my parents’ marriage “necessarily involves (the) degradation” of conventional marriage, an institution that ‘deserves admiration rather than execration.’”
Lawyers for California insisted that a ban on my parents’ marriage was necessary to prevent “traditional marriage from being contaminated by the recognition of relationships that are physically and mentally inferior,” and entered into by “the dregs of society.”
States enacted constitutional amendments banning interracial marriage in order to prevent judges from overturning ordinary laws. These laws and amendments had great popular support. They were “the will of the people.”
“The people” seem to have been mistaken. My mom and dad have been together for thirty-six loving, faithful years. Their union produced me, their wonderful, successful son, and now they also have three beautiful, intelligent, creative, amazing grandchildren (I’m pretty sure they would agree with the second half of that statement, at least). They own a home, pay taxes, and volunteer in their community. “Dregs of society,” indeed.
It wasn’t until June 12, 1967, that the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Loving v. Virginia that laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional. At that time, sixteen states still enforced laws against miscegenation. In the court’s unanimous decision, Chief Justice Warren wrote:
“The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.
“Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival… To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”
Without these words, my parents’ life – and mine, and my children’s – might have been radically different. In at least parts of this country, we would have been second-class citizens at best, criminals at worst. It is thanks to the willingness of Chief Justice Warren and other “activist judges” to stand up for the civil rights of ALL Americans, even when it was unpopular, that my family is able to exist.
I am not the first writer to draw parallels between interracial marriage and same-sex unions, but I cannot, in good conscience, enjoy the rights I have been given while other families are still fighting for theirs.
Minnesota bears the distinction of being one of a small handful of states that never enacted laws against interracial marriage. Let’s keep it that way; keep discrimination out of our state Constitution.
Vote NO on the anti-family ballot question in November 2012. If you found this argument compelling, please share it with others.”
Thing the second: I helped him edit this, and I got a little carried away. He originally included a line about how the first pastor his parents approached refused to perform their wedding. I meant to add the line back in, but I forgot.
It’s important, because while Robin and I (retroactively, obviously) disagree with that pastor’s decision, we feel that he was completely within his rights to say “no.” The free exercise of religious beliefs – no matter whether I agree with them or not – should be protected. But the state should not be in the business of deciding which ones are correct and which ones are not.
Thing the third: this ballot measure in Minnesota in November does not – cannot – make it legal for gay couples to get married in this state. That’s a different fight, for a different day, contingent on what lawmakers/judges/the people of Minnesota decide to do about the existing statute making gay unions illegal.
What we decide in November is whether or not to amend Minnesota’s constitution to include a definition of marriage as being one man and one woman. So even if you think that maybe, some day, very very long from now, the people of Minnesota might want to reconsider this question, please think about voting “no.”