Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"If loving you is wrong I don't wanna be right"

Here's a quick marriage quiz: In what year did it become legal for persons of different races to marry in all of the United States?

a. 1865?
b. 1883?
c. 1954?
d. 1967?
e. 2000?
This is a bit of a trick question. The answer I'm looking for is 1967, which is the year the U.S. Supreme Court said laws prohibiting interracial marriage (known as anti-miscegenation laws) were unconstitutional. The case is known by the serendipitous name of Loving v. Virginia -- Loving being the actual name of the couple who were prosecuted in Virginia in 1958 for marrying each other.

But you could make a case for 2000, because that's the year Alabama finally took its anti-miscegenation law off the books. They couldn't enforce it after 1967, but it was still there.

Those other dates? Well, the Civil War ended in 1865. 1954 is the date for Brown v. Board of Education, which made segregated schools illegal.

And 1883? That's the year the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Alabama's anti-miscegenation law because it punished both white and black people equally. Look how many years it took the court to fix that mistake.

You can find these and other interesting facts about the history of interracial marriage on the Loving Day website. According to an article in the June 13 Washington Post, Ken Tanabe, who set up the website, is advocating a national "Loving Day" to be held every June 12 –- the day the Loving decision was issued -- to honor interracial marriage.

As we discuss the issue of gay marriage, it's useful to realize that this country has discriminated against other forms of marriage in the past. In 1912 a member of Congress even proposed a constitutional amendment prohibiting marriage between Caucasians and those "having any trace of African or negro blood."

And if you think the rhetoric is nastier about gay marriage, consider this statement quoted on the Loving Day website and attributed to the trial judge in Virginia who convicted the Lovings for getting married:

Almighty God created the races, white, black, yellow, Malay, and red and 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 the races to mix.

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