Replace the word race with sexual orientation and the stories below are hauntingly similar to those Wisconsin and this nation face today. We have a choice to make as citizens of Wisconsin in November. Do we go backwards toward the hatred of the first half of this century (regardless of the target) by opening the doors to institutionalized and governmental racism or do we boldly take a new step forward and reject hatred and discrimination outright?
We can and must come together and stop this blatant discrimination from being written into our state Constitution! And at the same time we must hold accountable the State Representatives who thought and are now openly bragging that they are only doing this to manipulate the vote in November.
From The American Melting Pot? Miscegenation Laws in the United States
Bárbara C. Cruz and Michael J. Berson
...During the 1920s there was a rekindling of racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, whose membership grew dramatically. Intolerance was also manifested in other ways. In 1924 a Virginia law was passed that prohibited whites from marrying anyone with “a single drop of Negro blood” (12). Virginia was not unique; marriage between whites and blacks was by this time illegal in thirty-eight states. Furthermore, in 1924 Congress passed the Immigration Act, a series of strict anti-immigration laws calling for the severe restriction of “inferior” races from southern and eastern Europe.
As late as the 1950s, almost half of the states had miscegenation laws. While the original statutes were directed wholly against black-white unions, the legislation had extended to unions between whites and Mongolians, Malayans, Mulattos, and Native Americans (13).
During the 1960s, the civil rights movement helped reverse many of the legal barriers against miscegenation. The Warren Court, through its 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, was actively striving to end discrimination against blacks. So when the case of McLaughlin v. Florida appeared on the docket in 1964, the Court was again ready to deal with the question of racial classification. In McLaughlin, the Court ruled as invalid a Florida statute that allowed more severe penalties for cohabitation and adultery by interracial couples than same-race pairs. Justice Potter Stewart in a concurring opinion concluded,
“it is simply not possible for a state law to be valid under our Constitution
which makes the criminality of an act depend upon the race of the actor” (14).
McLaughlin v. Florida was instrumental in paving the way for the 1967 case of Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia. In that year, sixteen states still had laws that made interracial marriages illegal (15). The case was brought about by Perry Loving, a white man, and his African American and American Indian wife, Mildred Jeter. Since interracial marriage was illegal in their home state of Virginia, the couple was married in Washington, D.C. When they returned to Virginia, the newlyweds were arrested and put in jail for breaking the law.
Before dawn one morning, police officers barged into their bedroom, shined a flashlight on them, and demanded to know what the couple was doing. Mr. Loving pointed to their framed marriage certificate on the wall, but the officers informed them that the D.C. license was not legal in Virginia.
At the trial, the Virginia judge gave the Lovings a choice: they could spend one year in jail or move to another state.
In his opinion, the judge said:
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 (16).
The couple grudgingly moved to nearby Washington, D.C., and appealed their case, which eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ultimately, the Court found the laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional.
Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the Court’s decision:
“Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry or not marry a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed upon by the State.”
With that decision, all the remaining anti-miscegenation laws in the country were null and void (17). While the Loving decision fought racism in the legal arena, there is much more to be done in the social arena. The recent cases surrounding an “all white” Georgia cemetery and a school prom in Alabama illustrate the continuing intolerance for mixed-race unions and individuals that exists in the United States. -- Note the article continues, see link above.