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David A. Schwartz Headshot

Acceptable Discrimination?

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In 1958, Mildred Jeter, an African-American woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in Washington, D.C. Both were residents of Virginia, and soon after their wedding, they returned to their home state. In October of that year, the couple was charged with violating Virginia's ban on interracial marriage. This led to the landmark Loving v. Virginia case, after which Virginia's "Racial Integrity Act of 1924" was found unconstitutional, effectively ending restrictions on interracial marriage in the United States.

The reason I bring this up, is because during the initial trial, judge Leon M. Bazile had this to say:

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

Bazile's proclamation echoed in my head as I read Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy's remarks on gay marriage. What if Cathy had said that interracial marriage was against God's plan, and that it invites "God's judgment on our nation?" Would people be flocking to Chick-fil-A in droves in support if this had been the case? I certainly wouldn't think so. If Chick-fil-A's "National Hater Appreciation Day 2012" has taught us anything, it's that anti-gay sentiment is still considered by many to be a socially acceptable form of discrimination.

But why the double standard? What keeps gay discrimination out of the same category as racial discrimination? Let's go back to the Loving v. Virginia case for a moment. During the trial, the Presbyterian Church wrote a position paper stating that they found "no theological grounds for condemning or prohibiting marriage between consenting adults merely because of racial origin." The Roman Catholic Church also came to the same conclusion. Ultimately, the "Racial Integrity Act of 1924" was overturned because it was ruled that it violated the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, but the Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Church certainly played a large part in that outcome by building public support.

Now here's an interesting thought: What if the Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Church had found theological grounds for condemning interracial marriage? If there had been a passage in Leviticus stating, "No man shall be joined with a woman of different flesh," would that have altered the outcome of Loving v. Virginia in any way? Probably not from a legal perspective, but from social perspective, it is quite possible that public support for interracial marriage would have been significantly weakened. If things had turned out differently, would we then look back upon judge Leon M. Bazile as being a person who was simply standing up for his sacredly held beliefs, and was therefore not a bigot?

There are no logical reasons to ban same-sex marriage just as there were no logical reasons to ban interracial marriage, and it would appear that the only difference between the two is a matter of theological, as opposed to constitutional, precedence. Granted, more and more religious institutions are voicing their support for the LGBT community, and it stands to reason that eventually the public majority will favor equal marriage rights, but it will probably take many years for this to happen. When it does happen, it will be because people will have finally realized that just because their holy scripture is bigoted, it doesn't mean they have to be.

So I leave you with this: You are not a righteous person if you stand up for beliefs that only serve to add misery to the world. Sacredness does not justify bigotry. If you happen to be ravenously devouring a Chick-fil-A sandwich right now because you adhere to the same beliefs as Dan Cathy does, ask yourself this: "Am I a bigot? Do my beliefs make me hate others for no good reason?" I bet that sandwich doesn't taste as good as it once did.