Let’s rewind 47 years to a late-60’s United States, a country where people of color are not allowed to use the same water fountains as whites, the word “Nigger” is still an acceptable term, and the law that “any person born in the United States regardless of race is a U.S. citizen” has only been in effect for 101 years.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin by federal and state governments as well as some public places, is only three years old. And if you’re white and want to marry someone of color, you are shit out of luck. If you’re black and marry a white person (in many states), hope you enjoy jail.
On that note, let’s narrow the focus from the United States to one specific state: Virginia.
Virginia in the 1960’s had anti-miscegenation laws. That is, the state legally enforced racial segregation vis-a-vis intimate relationships by criminalizing interracial marriage (and even, at times, sex between members of different races). The law was called the Racial Integrity Act – gotta preserve the integrity of those white roots!
Once you go black, you. . . go to jail?
However, for all its tolerance failings, Virginia was the stage for major progress in the fight for racial equality. And this progress came in the courts with Loving v. Virginia – a case brought by Mildred and Richard Loving who had been sentenced to a year in prison for marrying each other.
The Supreme Court unanimously decided to deem Virginia’s Act unconstitutional, consequentially putting an end to all race-based marriage restrictions in the United States.
The case represented more than a step in the Civil Rights fight and racism in America; it told people that their bigotry had no place in public and that the Constitution applied to everyone equally, including the intimate aspects of life.
This sort of discrimination/marriage fight can be seen today with “gay marriage.” [in quotes because that term just. . . sucks]
Just like racism, LGBT discrimination is justified in plenty of ways. Some people point to their religious views, others to their versions of science. And some people just don’t like the idea of it – birds of a feather flock together and what-not. God as the original segregationist turned into God as the original gay-hater. Scientific racism attempted to justify discrimination, and gave way to arguments that homosexuality is biologically incompatible. And “I just don’t like it” – that coherent and educated argument – has remained pretty much unchanged through time and space.
However, the only parallel between gay marriage and Loving is the role that issues play in society, and how changing times can be seen in the acceptance or criticism of certain *things* about people. In 1960’s America, the issue was race. In modern America, it’s sexual orientation and the ability to marry someone of the same gender.
Loving has been cited (as recently as 2013) in federal court decisions regarding restrictions on same-sex marriage. The only theatre that’s left for “gay marriage” to enter is the Supreme Court. However, it may take awhile for the issue to get there. And people may be in for a shock – it’s not as, ahem, black and white as people may assume.
The difference between the two will be reserved for another time and post.
From my point of view, discrimination against “gay marriage” is on the outs if all that’s holding it back is peoples’ religious resistance. Rigid religious lifestyles are outdated and anachronistic, and claiming to live by religious guidelines about one thing and not reflecting it in one’s whole life makes it a ridiculous argument.