Saturday, November 01, 2008

This, however, is election news

Updated An article in the New York Times notes that both McCain and Obama oppose same-sex marriage. The reasoning and the approach differ, but the end result is much the same.

The article quotes McCain advisers as saying his position is "influenced by generational and cultural experiences." It goes on to say his belief in federalism leads him to oppose a national amendment to bar same-sex marriage while supporting state-level efforts to do so. Obama, on the other hand,
believes that marriage is a sacred union, a blessing from God, and one that is intended for a man and a woman exclusively, according to ... supporters and Obama campaign advisers. ... [H]e does not support [same-sex marriage] and is not inclined to fight for it, his advisers say.
Of those two views, I actually find Obama's, even as he oh so modestly says he's “open to the possibility” that he's “misguided,” to be the more odious. McCain's opposition, the generational sort, is the kind that dies out over time - not, that is, his own opposition, rather that succeeding generations will feel differently. As Donovan wrote in "Rules and Regulations,"
Now, live your own life, I tell you for why:
You're gonna be around when they all die off.
Obama's opposition, on the other hand, is not generational but calls upon the authority of God. It is self-reinforcing, self-replicating, and allows for no direct challenge. "God said, and that's the end of the story." Oh, "understandings" can be adjusted, interpretations of the Bible can change, but the idea of "god said" remains.

What is particularly outrageous about this is that Obama knows, he knows, he even referred to it, that at the time his parents got married in 1961, that act would have been illegal in a number of states. In fact, in 1883 the Supreme Court had upheld the constitutionality of "anti-miscegenation" laws, a ruling that was not overturned until 1964. And it wasn't until 1967, in Loving v. Virginia, that SCOTUS finally shot down the last laws barring interracial marriage.

In fact, according to one source, as recently as 1987, fewer than half of Americans thought it was appropriate for whites and blacks to date each other.

Why are interracial dating and marriage relevant here? Because, again as I believe Obama must know, Biblical authority was cited in support of those laws, just as it is cited now to justify discrimination against same-sex couples. Numerous passages were cited to "prove" that god intended for various races to remain forever separate. Those arguments did not appear only in political tracts and campaigns, they were reflected in court decisions.

For example, the original trial judge in what became Loving wrote in his decision that
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.
Even more explicitly, in 1955 the Supreme Court of Virginia upheld the constitutionality of state law banning interracial marriage.
The Virginia Court cited precedent that marriage is "an institution established by God himself" and a "civilizing, Christianizing institution" and that a ban on interracial marriage is "clearly divine."
We have been down this road so many times before. Biblical quotes have been used across the years in defense of bigotry and hatred. To justify slavery. To justify the oppression of women. To justify banning interracial relationships. And now to justify banning same-sex marriage. We simply refuse to learn the lesson that while "god said" can perhaps be a fair guide to personal morality, it is a singularly lousy, even dangerous, guide to public policy.

Credit Obama for opposing California's Proposition 8 (appropriately re-dubbed Proposition Hate by opponents) but quite frankly, a laissez faire attitude toward human rights, opposing new de jure oppression while letting existing oppression - both de jure and de facto - stand is just not good enough, Senator. Not good enough at all.

Updated with a Footnote: My good blogging compatriot James at The Mahatma X Files reminds me that Biblical authority has also been used to attack the theory of evolution (ultimately, it is the only source for the claims of the creationists and their allied know-nothings) and to endorse eugenics.

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