Anniversary of Loving v. Virginia

Today marks the 50-year anniversary of an important case decided by the Supreme Court. Loving v. Virginia was a case brought by an interracial couple against the state of Virginia for the law banning interracial marriage. This is a decision worth commemorating because it was one more step in banning unjust laws that discriminated against people based on race.

All people are created in God’s image, and race and skin color is an immutable, non-moral characteristic that doesn’t diminish that intrinsic value. Our laws must reflect that and uphold equality and justice.

In recent years, though, Loving v. Virginia has been used to support same-sex marriage. The rationale places race and sexuality on the same legal and moral footing. Frank Beckwith makes an excellent point in this legal analysis that refutes the parallel being drawn between banning interracial marriage and same-sex marriage. The parallel, of course, trades on the obvious offense of the former in our history and the sense of fair play and equal rights that good people cherish. But the parallel drawn is a false one, though there is a parallel that actually works against the proponents of same-sex marriage.

Proponents of same-sex marriage claimed that legal efforts to clarify the definition of marriage was a ban on same-sex marriage, but that wasn’t the case at all. A ban requires something already be in effect, have a history of practice. Same-sex marriage wasn’t being banned, and that’s a significant difference with the supposed parallel with interracial marriage. That was a ban in fact. 

Legal restrictions against interracial marriage was a revision to millennia of human history. Race had never been part of the definition of marriage, so the efforts to ban it were revisionistic, not an effort to conserve and protect marriage as an institution. Of course, same-sex marriage is also revisionistic, overthrowing the definition of marriage for all of human history. And this is, ironically, the actual parallel between the two.

Opponents of same-sex marriage weren’t seeking to ban any practice of common law well-established in human history, such as was the case in banning interracial marriage. It was a revision of current law, just as the efforts to legalize same-sex marriage were revisionistic and revolutionary. In both cases, those that sought to protect the institution of marriage from revision were consistent in the efforts to keep marriage from being fundamentally changed, to maintain a definition well-established in law.

So there is a parallel between the two, but not the one advocates of same-sex marriage think there is. The parallel isn’t in their favor because the two efforts compare in their efforts to change the institution of marriage. Based on that legal parallel, it actually illustrates how revolutionary and, frankly, cavalier such efforts were to fundamentally redefine an institution that has served humanity and society very well since the dawn of human history.

All human beings, no matter their race or sexuality are intrinsically valuable, created in God’s image, deserving of respect and justice. The question is what justice requires in regard to marriage. Since the parallel between interracial and same-sex marriage fails, treating people justly doesn’t require granting marriage rights to same-sex couples as it does interracial couples. Justice requires treating equals equally, and in this case the couples just aren’t equal in a legal way. Saying that justice doesn’t require us to treat all couples equally does not undermine in the least bit affirming the full equality and value of all people who deserve equal protection and justice under the law as individuals.

Melinda Penner