Loving v. Virginia was a Supreme Court case in 1967. The Loving’s, Mildred, a black woman, and Richard, a white man, had been sentenced to one year in prison in Virginia. Their crime? Marrying each other. That’s why the Supreme Court has to overrule the Defense of Marriage Act which seeks to violate more than gay marriage and diminish marriage equality, whether it’s gay marriage or interracial marriage. Gay marriage is our nation’s championship bout, however, let’s not forget one of the fights that led up to it: Interracial marriage.
This was 88 years ago where they violated the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored,” which was one of the predecessors to DOMA that now seeks to violate more than gay marriage. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision held this prohibition was unconstitutional, overturning Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States. Interestingly, 88-years-ago, the late great Gordon Stoker was born. The same year the Racial Integrity Act was passed. While Stoker deserves to be memorialized, it’s a shame his passing is far more popular right now than the subject of DOMA and gay marriage. Often times, we have our priorities backwards as my grandfather used to say. What could be more important than freedom and equality? Arguably that’s the question, which should govern the Supreme Court’s decision regarding DOMA.
The court ruled that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Chief Justice Earl Warren’s opinion for the unanimous court held that:
“Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”
Does this apply to gay marriage? Is there a realistic difference between the rights of autonomous groups to seek one of the “basic civil rights of man”?
In June 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the issuance of the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving, Mildred Loving issued a statement:
“I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry… 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, and loving, are all about.”
Today, as the Court heard arguments to both overturn and protect gay marriage, specifically, the Defense of Marriage Act, there is a definite conundrum that exists between the nine Justices.
The challenge to the 1996 amendment was brought to the court by Edith Windsor, whose marriage to Thea Spyer was legal in New York. But when Spyer died, Windsor had to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes that she would not have had to pay if she had been married to a man. Windsor challenged the federal law and won in the lower courts.
What makes this case even more interesting is that President Obama is in support of repealing the law, while he is forced to defend it. His position created a forced defense of DOMA by the House Republican leadership in the case to defend the law.
The position of repealing DOMA has more supporters than those retaining it. Former President Clinton who signed the Act into law has openly said he was in favor of it being overturned. President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and high ranking government officials on both sides of the aisle have urged its repeal. Big Business, who has experienced difficulty with the forced discriminatory practices resulting from the Act seek its repeal. The majority of those who wish to see it continued are religious organizations.
The attitude of the nation has changed, just as it had in 1967. Americans have realized that there is no danger to traditional marriage, only a creation of equality in legal matters for same-sex couples.
Take note that if the DOMA is overturned, allowing gay marriage, it will in no possible way eliminate homophobia in our nation, just as was the case with the Loving’s victory in 1967 that had no effect on racial discrimination in much of our nation.
Columnist-The Guardian Express