In Little Rock Monday my friend Bill Lindsey married his partner of 42 years, thanks to the Supreme Court push that is knocking down state DOMAs like a row of dominoes. Mazel tov, Bill and Steve!
Over on his blog Bilgrimage, Bill describes the joyous scene at the Pulaski County Courthouse that included Judge Chris Piazza, the popular former prosecutor whose ruling opened the doors to same-sex marriage in Arkansas. Piazza did not overlook the analogy to legalized racial discrimination, quoting from both Dred Scott (1858), in which the Supreme Court decided that African Americans could not be American citizens, and from Loving (1967), where the court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.
“It has been over forty years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice,” wrote Piazza. “The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples. It is time to let the beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.”
That analogy is very much to the point. Southern opposition to race-mixing used to be as religiously grounded (“the Curse of Ham”) as Southern opposition is to SSM is today. But religion cannot provide the rational basis for discrimination that our courts now require.
However long mopping-up operations take, this war is over. As Baylor historian Philip Jenkins gloomily noted the other day:
I would suggest that by 2020, or perhaps a little later, same sex unions will be so thoroughly accepted, so completely mainstream, that opponents of any kind – even those who base themselves in strong religious traditions – will be regarded pretty much as most of us today view critics of interracial marriage. By that point, churches publicly criticizing same-sex marriage, or even refusing to endorse it wholeheartedly, can expect to lose enormous numbers of their remaining young adult members, and frankly, much of their membership apart from the very old and the politically ultra-reactionary. That is a hideous prospect.
Is that hyperbolic? Perhaps. But if I belonged to such a church — or synagogue, or mosque — I’d be wondering whether the price is worth it.