Sexuality and Gender

Race, Sex, and Marriage

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Author Amy K. Hall Published on 10/25/2012

You may have already seen Rev. Dr. Phil Snider’s two-minute speech to the Springfield City Council in support of adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the categories of protected people in the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

Snider began by giving religious arguments against the ordinance. Then, in a surprising twist, he revealed that all of his comments were quotes from white preachers in the ’50s and ’60s; he had merely used the phrase “gay rights” instead of “racial integration.” Snider closed by saying, “I hope you will not make the same mistake. I hope you will stand on the right side of history.”

The video has been viewed over two million times and is being used to argue that opposing same-sex marriage is analogous to opposing interracial marriage. Tom Gilson of Thinking Christian had this to say about Snider’s video:

I wish he hadn’t called his skit an argument. It wasn’t one. It was a play, a set piece with a surprise ending that generated emotion where reason is called for; a drama play-acting as reasoned discussion. It had a powerful effect, but that’s a poor substitute for honest communication.

You can see the video of the speech (which Gilson calls “reason steamrolled by emotion”) and read Gilson’s full analysis of Snider’s argument and why it fails over at Thinking Christian.

But what about the charge that traditional marriage supporters are making the same mistake as the racial segregationists? In a Public Discourse article, Francis Beckwith explains why anti-miscegenation laws are not analogous to opposing same-sex marriage. In fact, he says, it’s the opposite. It’s the same-sex marriage advocates who are making the same mistake as the racial segregationists:

The overwhelming consensus among scholars is that the reason for these [anti-miscegenation] laws was to enforce racial purity, an idea that begins its cultural ascendancy with the commencement of race-based slavery of Africans in early 17th-century America and eventually receives the imprimatur of “science” when the eugenics movement comes of age in the late 19th and early 20th centuries...

Anti-miscegenation laws, therefore, were attempts to eradicate the legal status of real marriages by injecting a condition—sameness of race—that had no precedent in common law. For in the common law, a necessary condition for a legitimate marriage was male-female complementarity, a condition on which race has no bearing...

[T]he fact that a man and a woman from different races were biologically and metaphysically capable of marrying each other, building families, and living among the general population is precisely why the race purists wanted to forbid such unions by the force of law. And because this view of marriage and its gender-complementary nature was firmly in place and the only understanding found in common law, the Supreme Court in Loving knew that racial identity was not relevant to what marriage requires of its two opposite-gender members. By injecting race into the equation, anti-miscegenation supporters were very much like contemporary same-sex marriage proponents, for in both cases they introduced a criterion other than male-female complementarity in order to promote the goals of a utopian social movement: race purity or sexual egalitarianism.

This is why, in both cases, the advocates require state coercion to enforce their goals. Without the state’s cooperation and enforcement, there would have been no anti-miscegenation laws and there would be no same-sex marriage. The reason for this, writes libertarian economist Jennifer Roback Morse, is that “marriage between men and women is a pre-political, naturally emerging social institution. Men and women come together to create children, independently of any government.” Hence, this explains its standing as an uncontroversial common law liberty. “By contrast,” Morse goes on to write, “same-sex ’marriage’ [and same-race-only marriage] is completely a creation of the state...” [emphases mine].

We don’t have separate bathrooms for white people and black people. We do have separate bathrooms for men and women. This is because men and women are different in ways that are significant enough for society to acknowledge and take into account when those differences are relevant. And while differences in race are not relevant to marriage, differences in sex are relevant to creating and raising children. The important thing to note here is that the government is merely acknowledging an already-existing institution (one based on biological realities) when it recognizes male-female marriage. The public effect of the male-female union is unique, and therefore, the government is uniquely interested in it.