Yes, Virginia, loving is a civil right

I am happy to have read, on Valentine’s Day, that a federal judge, in declaring the state of Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional (because all states’ bans on same-sex marriage violate the U.S. Constitution), evoked the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, in which the nation’s highest court ruled that it is unconstitutional for any state to prohibit mixed-race (heterosexual, of course!) marriage.

Many if not most are hesitant to compare same-sex marriage to mixed-race marriage, since this makes the non-white homophobes go apeshit. (You don’t choose your race, but you choose to be non-heterosexual, they [for the most part incorrectly*] assert, and they believe, of course, that being non-hetrosexual is bad. [You aren’t born with your religious beliefs, but people’s religious beliefs are protected against discrimination, so that whole “choice” “argument” is actually pretty fucking moot where equal human and civil rights are concerned.])

Mildred Loving, the black woman whose marriage to a white man was the subject of Loving v. Virginia, wrote this in 2007 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the court case bearing her name:

When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, D.C., in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married. 

We didn’t get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn’t allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom.

When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is?

Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the “crime” of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed.

The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared: “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.” He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.

 We left, and got a lawyer. Richard and I had to fight, but still were not fighting for a cause. We were fighting for our love.

Though it turned out we had to fight, happily Richard and I didn’t have to fight alone. Thanks to groups like the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and so many good people around the country willing to speak up, we took our case for the freedom to marry all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that “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,” a “basic civil right.”

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving [v. Virginia], and loving, are all about.

Kinda knocks the wind out of the sails of the black homophobes, doesn’t it, that the black woman who was involved in Loving v. Virginia herself proclaimed — seven years ago! — such things as that “Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights” and that “black or white, young or old, gay or straight,” she “support[s] the freedom to marry for all”?

I am struck by how “God” routinely was used as a defense of the prohibition of mixed-raced marriages, with the judge in Virginia having proclaimed that “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.”

Similar “arguments” by the “Christo”fascist homophobes abound today.

I also am struck by how Mildred and Richard Loving faced what same-sex couples in the United States face today: having your marriage performed and recognized in one state but flatly and wholly rejected in another state.

This kind of bullshit cannot stand. A house divided will fall.

But I have no doubt that one day soon, the U.S. Supreme Court will rule, as it did in Loving v. Virginia the year before I was born (it was not nearly long ago enough!), that “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 [and women],” a “basic civil right.”**

*My observation is that some non-heterosexuals clearly are born non-heterosexual, that they had no choice in it whatsoever, but that it might more or less be a choice for some other non-heterosexuals.

However, the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, guarantee all of us Americans such things as the right and the freedom to associate with whomever we wish, the right to privacy, and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Therefore, it doesn’t fucking matter whether an individual’s non-majority sexual orientation is his or her (or “their”?) choice or not; he or she (or “they”?) still is entitled to the same civil rights as is everyone else.

(I can’t say that I’m on board with “they,” “them” and “their” — plural pronouns — being used as gender-neutral pronouns. The plural pronouns exist to indicate number, not gender status. I’m fine with gender-neutral pronouns being used, but I don’t think that we’ve found the best ones yet, and therefore we might have to invent them…)

**Slate.com has a pretty good piece today titled: “It’s Over: Gay Marriage Can’t Win in the Courts.” The piece notes:

… Insofar as there was confusion about what [United States v.] Windsor [2013] meant at the time it was decided, the lower courts across the country have now effectively settled it. A survey of publicly available opinions shows that in the eight months since Windsor, 18 court decisions have addressed an issue of equality based on sexual orientation. And in those 18 cases, equality has won every single time. In other words, not a single court has agreed with Chief Justice [John] Roberts that Windsor is merely about state versus federal power. Instead, each has used Windsor exactly as Justice [Antonin] Scalia “warned”—as a powerful precedent for equality. …

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