African-American Lawyers: We’ve Heard These Anti-Marriage Equality Arguments Before

Written by Zack Ford

The Howard University School of Law is one of the oldest law schools in the country and the oldest law school at any historically black college or university (HBCU). Its Civil Rights Clinic has filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8 by highlighting how all of the arguments against same-sex marriage equality are simply recycled variations on arguments that were used to justify prohibitions of interracial marriage until Loving v. Virginia was decided in 1967 (citations omitted):

In the Jim Crow era, the denial of marriage rights to interracial couples served as one of the most potent symbols of the less-than-equal status of  African-Americans. As recently as 1967, sixteen states still had anti-miscegenation statutes on their books; the last such statute was not officially repealed until 2000. Opponents of interracial marriage justified criminal prohibitions against such unions by pointing to the purported detrimental effect of interracial births and parentage, the supposed destruction of society if people marry between the races, and the so-called natural law rationale for keeping the races separate.

While public debate over interracial unions has generally died since Loving v. Virginia, today the opposition to marriage for same-sex couples relies on arguments strikingly similar to those raised in opposition to interracial marriage. Without acknowledging the racial provenance of these discredited arguments, opponents of marriage equality have attacked same-sex couples as a threat to American society, American families and heterosexual marriage, as an affront to the laws of God and nature, and as a menace to their children.

The brief goes on to highlight five distinct arguments that transcend the debates between marriage equality for interracial couples and marriage equality for same-sex couples:

  • SOCIAL ORDER: Marriage equality is a threat to the social order and would “introduce a form of pollution to marriage.”
  • SEXUALIZATION: The people who want to get married have relationships that are purely sexual, promiscuous, and “deviant.”
  • PSEUDOSCIENCE: Researchers have distorted research to raise fears about supposed consequences of marriage equality.
  • JUDEO-CHRISTIAN VALUES: The Bible forbids recognizing these relationships.
  • CHILDREN: These relationships will cause physical and psychological damage to the children they raise.

The similarities are jarring, and Howard provides plenty of examples for each to demonstrate just how unoriginal the arguments against same-sex marriage truly are. The brief concludes with this stirring rebuke of equality’s opponents, including a quote from gay black poet James Baldwin:

But the certainty and monotony with which some will always sound the death knell for society, morality, and faith, just because two adults choose to marry, cannot obscure the reality that we heard virtually the same arguments for almost three hundred years to justify preventing two black people from marrying and then a black man from marrying a white woman. Nor, when all is said and done, can these jeremiads about how marriage equality for same-sex couples will lead to our final slouching toward Gomorrah obscure the reality that it is “an inexorable law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one’s own.”

This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.


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Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson2 years ago

it is all too familiar. same arguments, same amount of hatred, same amount of pointless. Live and let live, love and let love. Equal rights for citizens, and worldwide.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener2 years ago


Cyan Dickirs
Cyan Dickirs2 years ago

Pam W There is no such thing in the Constitution as separation of Church and State. The 1st amendment guarantees freedom of religion and the free exercise thereof, and also guarantees freedom of expression, which you are taking advantage of to attempt to distort and deny others their rights to their own conscience and freedom of expression. If marriage is merely a legality, then Congress consitutionally and duly passed DOMA. If DOMA ever comes before SCOTUS and is struck down, that does not mean that religions can be forced under any reading of any law to "marry" homosexuals. If the Government wants to grant federal benefits or tax advantages to homosexuals, because they are homosexuals, I would oppose that as I oppose most of the tax code, which has been used to further and decide social mores at whim. The attempt to encourage marriage and family through the tax code has had mixed results. Welfare rules actually tore families apart. Two high income earner marriages have a "marriage tax". The whole argument is stupid, especially your hatred of people who have beliefs you don't like. You are trying to blame Christians for interfering in your private life, when you are trying to deny them the right to their own beliefs and conscience.

Cyan Dickirs
Cyan Dickirs2 years ago

Mark your statement Conclusion: If we are tax paying citizens, we deserve every right and priviledge afforded every other American. Nothing but full equality wil

Are you limiting equality, rights and privileges to only taxpaying citizens? How about prisoners, and released felons, the 47% not paying taxes and getting tax dollars through welfare, food stamps, bailouts? Does being a citizen and a taxpayer give you rights, privileges and equality that non taxpayers should be denied? What rights, privileges and "equality" are gays being denied? Are you paying more or less taxes than a hetero in your same bracket? Do you get better or worse premiums on insurance? Can you get driver's license (a privilege). Do you get to pay child support or alimony? Can you hold public office? Get a job because you can't be discriminated against? Are not gays a special protected class under the law? How is that equality for me, a female hetero? Gays have equality; they have more rights and protections. What do you want marriage for? More taxes, more government control, APPROVAL?

Cyan Dickirs
Cyan Dickirs2 years ago

Government, in order to control property, inheritance and families, made marriage a legal contract. Historically, marriage was religious in its "contract". In fact, Christianity defines marriage as symbolic of the relationship between Christ and the Church, in that He died for the Church and glorifies and lifts up the Church. In the Judeo ethic, marriage was designed by God, male and female made He them, and they two shall become one flesh. Biology seems to support this concept and some species even mate for life (wolves for instance).
The solution is simple-get government out of the economic & legal aspects of marriage (no federal or state benefits for marriage) or force religions to violate their conscience, and force them to marry non believers or non members, which is a more basic right, guaranteed specifically by the Constitution in the 1st amendment and 4th. What is next, polygamy, polyandry, ad nauseum? I for one, will not support any attempt to force me or any taxpayers to approve of by our tax money, the choices and behaviors of LGTB or people whose actions and/or lifestyles have caused their health problems, desire for plastic surgery or sex operations or welfare benefits. Don't need marriage to inherit, or give inheritance or IRA's or medical decisions. Write wills, make beneficiaries on life ins and IRA's and medical directives. BTW, Obamacare has destroyed spousal benefits for employee health insurance. Gays are better off economically not being subjecte

Jennifer L.
Jennifer L.2 years ago

It's great to raise the similarities, because it's very hard to argue against these points. Reminds me of this:

Preacher Phil Snider gives interesting gay rights speech (make sure you watch it all!)

Carole R.
Carole R.2 years ago


janet T.
janet T.2 years ago

Equality is a human right. People get a clue!

Brian M.
Past Member 2 years ago

Equality: it's a good thing.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson2 years ago