Race-Mixing and Sex-Mixing
The arguments against same-sex unions are nothing like those racists used to ban interracial marriage.
Last week I asked: Are opponents of same-sex marriage just rehearsing the same kind of bad arguments used in past decades to oppose interracial marriage? Are Christians who defend biblical sexual ethics relying on dogma or irrational prejudice? Are we engaged in hate speech when we argue the following?
- What we mean by “marriage” includes by its very nature the union of a male and female.
- Same-sex marriage is simply impossible.
- Raising same-sex unions to the same level as real marriage amounts to a legal fiction.
- Forcing citizens to recognize and even participate in such weddings violates their civil and religious rights.
- Destabilizing the very nature of an already fragile institution, the family, harms the most vulnerable members of society, helpless children and the poor.
Does saying all this put us in the same moral sewer as racists who claimed that interracial marriage was unnatural, unhealthy and bad for society? If so, we deserve to lose. We deserve to face the choice that NY Times columnist Frank Bruni wants to impose on Christians: Change your doctrine, or go out into the wilderness with what’s left of the white supremacists. Your institutions will have to comply with the new status quo, or you will have to go rogue — lose legal protections, face fines and even jail time, lose tax exemptions and accreditation, and be treated by your country with less respect and tolerance than we grant Islamist imams who favor sharia law.
So let’s examine those old, bad arguments against interracial marriage, and contrast them with the reasons offered by defenders of natural marriage.
In the scholarly paper, “Miscegenation, Eugenics, and Racism: Historical Footnotes to Loving v. Virginia,” Paul A. Lombardo collected representative legal rulings issued by highly educated judges in support of bans on interracial marriage. They make for bracing, painful reading. While it’s often amusing to troll the exploded scientific and political ideas of the past, there’s nothing funny about the widespread acceptance of pseudo-scientific and pseudo-Christian racism. Such superstitions helped white supremacists such as the Klan keep in place unjust laws against interracial marriage, and gave eugenicists such as Margaret Sanger ammunition in imposing forced sterilization in a dozen U.S. states.
Advocates of same-sex marriage claim that our arguments against it are no better grounded, no morally different from these. Well, let’s gather them up and explain exactly why these racist arguments fall flat, and compare with them the reasons for defending natural marriage. Shall we? Below I’ll just give representative fragments of the larger arguments, which you can read for yourself in Lombardo’s paper.
Racist Argument #1
“[T]he off-spring of these unnatural connections are generally sickly and effeminate, and … they are inferior in physical development and strength, to the full-blood of either race.” (Scott v. Georgia, 1869.)
There is simply no evidence for this. In fact, it was the practice of inbreeding — whereby aristocratic white southern families preferred to marry close relations, even first cousins — that produced genetic defects. Anyone who has ever paid the vet bills for a pure-bred dog knows this much nowadays. Biologists speak of “hybrid” vigor, of the genetic advantages of “exogamy,” of crossing different strains within a species.
By contrast, same-sex marriage produces no offspring, not because of any medical problem among the partners, but by its very nature. It is not and cannot be fertile. So in one key respect, the biological, the verdict of science is clear: Interracial marriage is natural, and same-sex marriage is not.
Racist Argument #2
“The laws of civilization demand that the races be kept apart in this country.” (Doc. Lonas v. State of Tennessee, 1871.)
This is simply an unsupported assertion. Whose “laws” and whose “civilization”? Many flourishing civilizations allowed for intimate contact among different races. The Roman Empire, various vast and wealthy Muslim kingdoms, the Spanish and Portuguese empires — while they were often unjust in many respects — allowed for the free intermingling of people of different races, and extensive intermarriage. In fact, the idea of identifying “races” and keeping them “pure” is quite a modern one, dating back no earlier than the English conquest of North America.
By contrast, every human society of which we have any record regards the union of man and woman as the primary unit of society. None, not one, has ever recognized same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage — no, not even ancient Greece.
Racist Argument #3
“[W]hom God hath joined together by indelible peculiarities, which declare that He has made the two races distinct.” (Green v. State of Alabama, 1877.)
In other words, God intended to create distinct races, and forbade them to interbreed. In support of this assertion, some Christians cited Old Testament passages that prohibited the Israelites from mixing their seed with the Gentiles’. But the Old Testament itself makes it perfectly clear that the difference between Jews and Gentiles was religious, not biological. Jews were not to marry pagans who worshiped idols and practiced human sacrifice. Pagans who converted to the worship of God were welcomed in, and no barriers whatsoever were placed to their intermarriage with the children of Abraham. For this reason, the Catholic church always declared that interracial marriage was perfectly moral — though in certain social conditions, it might attract persecution and therefore be inadvisable.
By contrast, both the Old and New Testaments unambiguously condemn erotic activity between people of the same sex. No Christian church or Jewish synagogue accepted same-sex unions until the 1980s, and those that changed their positions didn’t do it because of new “scholarly” discoveries, but because they were adjusting their doctrine to follow secular mores.
Racist Argument #4
“The purity of public morals, the moral and physical development of both races, and the highest advancement of our cherished southern civilization require that [the races] should be kept distinct and separate. …” (Kinney v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 1878.)
This is mostly empty rhetoric, contradicted by the facts. Cruel laws that forbade slaves from even marrying each other, and the practice of breaking up families and selling off wives and children, helped shatter the black family in North America — while in South America, awful as slavery was, slave marriages were conducted in church and families couldn’t legally be split. Nor were public morals improved by the intrusion of laws that required racial segregation — serving as constant temptations to cruelty on the part of whites, and resentment among oppressed blacks.
By contrast, heterosexual marriage is based entirely on the encounter with the other, on the need to accept, accommodate and learn from the profound differences between the sexes. It is now primarily social conservatives who insist that the sexes are real, grounded in humans as among other animals in the facts of mammalian biology. Many advocates of same-sex marriage, on the other hand, have accepted the unhinged assertions of “Gender Theory,” which pretends that one’s gender is a social and psychological figment, an empty construct. That’s why, at last count, gender theorists claimed to have discovered some different 50 genders — you can pick any one of them now on Facebook.
Racist Argument #5
“[I]f the issue of a black man and a white woman, and a white man and a black woman, intermarry, they cannot possibly have any progeny. …” (State of Missouri v. Jackson, 1883.)
The judge here had read some crank scientific opinion asserting that people of mixed race had fertility problems, and therefore mixed marriages should be banned. There was no real evidence for this.
By contrast, no defender of natural marriage wants to ban unions of older people, or sterile people. Nevertheless, we recognize that marriage exists first and foremost for the sake of children. Protecting their well-being is the main reason the state has an interest in regulating marriage. And solid psychological evidence suggests that same-sex marriage in fact hurts kids, that “emotional problems are more than twice as prevalent for children with same-sex parents than for children with opposite-sex parents.”
So there is no resemblance at all between objections to same-sex marriage and those to “miscegenation.” In fact, the people relying on cultural prejudice, ideology and outright pseudo-science are all on one side of this issue: the pro-same-sex marriage side.
If you want to consider the arguments for natural marriage in full, with arguments drawn from every major Western religion, from social science, and the needs of children for stable families, read the brave defender of marriage Ryan Anderson, and also this piece by The Stream’s own Jay Richards.
See Part One of this analysis, “On Marriage, Are Christians No Better Than Racists?”