Interracial Marriage Bans Were About Eugenics, Not Redefining Marriage

People defending the reality of marriage often have difficulty responding to claims that excluding same-sex couples from marriage is similar to the bans on interracial marriage that were in place in some U.S. states as lated as 1967.  From the cases overturning those bans, those advocating for the redefinition of marriage alsofalsely claim that the courts established a fundamental right to marriage that applies to same-sex couples. What is going on is another attempt to confuse people about the redefinition of marriage, trying to claim discrimination against same-sex couples is similar to discrimination against interracial couples seeking marriage. This is a scurulous distortion and cover up of one of the most ugly eras in American history.

The definition of marriage has never changed over the course of history. Marriage has always been a reality that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union. The bans on interracial marriage was not about withholding a privilege from mixed race couples that was afforded to others, as marriage redefinition advocates would have people beleive. It was about eugenics -- racial purity and white supremacy.

Rather than withholding a privilege from interracial couple, the law tried to prevent them from marrying because at that time, it was uncommon for people to have children outside of marriage. If they were permitted to marry they would have had children who were mixed race -- a threat to racial purity. Back then, a person was considered black if they had one drop of black blood. Some thought interracial marriage would mean the end of the white race.

Claimed "Fundamental Right to Marry" is Bogus

There is no fundamental right to marry. The fundamental right to marry in interracial marriage cases was based on the fundamental right to procreate, not about the right to enter into a civil contract for the public recognition related benefit of loving adults in a committed relationship. It was about procreation, mothers and fathers and children.

The amazing thing is that proponents of redefining marriage have been able to get away with making the tie between antimiscegenation cases (Loving v Virginia, Perez v. Sharp (CA)), which they often cite in an attempt to claim a " fundamental right to marry" the person of one’s choice. It is even more amazing that they have been able to get some legislators and judges to buy their argument. This is a testimony to how illiterate many Americans are in the history of racism in this country, and how easy it is for people to rewrite history to serve their purposes.

The real history about of eugenics and antimiscenegation laws is surprising and even shocking.

Eugenics is the science of improving the quality of a race through breeding or genetics. It was dominant in the late 19th century and through the mid 20th century. It was an attitude to fed the master race ideology of the Germans prior to and during World War II. Many people do not realize how pervelent this attitude was in the United States as evidenced by bans on interracial marriage.

The eugenics movement was so bad, that some people felt that there were people in society who so undesireable they should be prohibited from procreating. In the 1927 Buck v. Bell decision, the U.S. Supreme Court by an 8-1 vote, ruled in favor of forcible sterilization of people deemed unfit to procreate. To illustrate the point, here is a quote from the decision, not from some fringe character, but from the icon of American history, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes:

“It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.

“Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

Catholics Lead Way in California Effort to End Bans on Interracial Marriage
Perez v Sharp

The first ban on interracial marriage was struck down by the California Supreme Court in 1948.  the case could not be made on the basis of discrimination because of the racism and eugenics attitudes. Because of this the only viable way of challenging the law was that it infringed on religious liberty. The Catholic Church backed an interracial couple who filed suit because they could not receive the Sacrament of Matrimony in the Catholic Church under state law. They prevailed.

Reading from the decision, Perez v. Sharp (Oct. 1, 1948) 32 Cal.2d 711, 198 P.2d 17, the plaintiffs maintained that "since the church has no rule forbidding marriages between Negroes and Caucasians, they are entitled to receive the sacrament of Matrimony." Because at the time, freedom of religious liberty was seen as one of the most fundamental and sacred rights, the judges concluded that

Marriage is thus something more than a civil contract subject to regulation by the state; it is a fundamental right of free men.[1]  There can be no prohibition of marriage except for an important social objective and by reasonable means.

They went on to clarify that "fundamental right" by quoting the case that eventually overturned restrictions on the right to procreate (Skinner v. Oklahoma)

the state's vital concern ... does not empower the Legislature to deprive "individuals of a right which is basic to the perpetuation of a race--the right to have offspring "by authorizing the sterilization of criminals upon an arbitrary basis of classification and without a fair hearing." (Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 536 [62 S.Ct. 1110, 86 L.Ed. 1655].)

The right to marry is as fundamental as the right to send one's child to a particular school or the right to have offspring. Indeed, "We are dealing here with legislation which involves one of the basic civil rights of man.  Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race." (Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 536 [62 S.Ct. 1110, 86 L.Ed. 1655].)

How could this be more clear. The "fundamental right to marry" claimed by advocates for redefining marriage is so clearly tied to the fundamental right to procreate, which is impossible for same-sex couples. (Note, some may claim that same-sex couples can procreate through the means of sperm or egg donation, but this moves the discussion away from marriage to parenting and raises other ethical concerns related to the creating a child with the intention of depriving the child from knowing and being cared for my his or her mother and or father -- clearly a violation of a fundamental human right.)

Laws Banning Interracial Marriage Finally End for All States
U.S. Supreme Court: Loving v Virginia (1967)

It was not 1967 that the ban on interracial marriage was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court for Virginia and 11 other states that still had them. The Loving v Virginia case was a little different because the couple who filed suit were already married in Washington DC, but moved to Virginia. Because of the antimiscenegenation law there, they suffered the humiliation of not being able to live together under state law. Reading the findings of the Court, it was clear that the Virginia law as about racial purity too, and not about withholding privileges from couples because of their race.

. . .  the state court concluded that the State's legitimate purposes were “to preserve the racial integrity (read purity) of its citizens”, and "the obliteration of racial pride," obviously an endorsement of the doctrine of White Supremacy.”

The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.

“Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man,"[2] fundamental to our very existence and survival.”(Obviously referring to marriage in the context of procreation)

Loving v Virginia (June 12, 1967) 388 US 1, 18 L ed 2d 1010, 87 S Ct 1817

[1] This is a point often quoted by advocates for redefining marriage, but it is clear by what follows the “fundamental right” expressed is in the context of procreation.

[2] Another phrase often quoted by advocates for redefining marriage, but when read with the entire sentence, what the Justices are referring to is obviously in the context of procreation.

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