Advertisement
Columnists

Michelle Deal-Zimmerman: Don’t be surprised when Supreme Court comes for interracial marriage | COMMENTARY

Mildred Loving, as she and her husband (and co-plaintiff) Richard battled the ban against interracial marriage in the super-charged case of Loving v. Virginia. The Lovings took their case to the Supreme Court in 1967 and won, legalizing interracial marriage across the nation.

If, OK, when the U.S. Supreme Court gets around to banning interracial marriage, my husband and I wonder what will happen.

Will we be fined $1,000 a day until we come to our senses and realize, after two decades of wedded bliss, that Justice Samuel Alito is right and our union is not ingrained in American history and, as such, should be dissolved?

Advertisement

Will we be rounded up and sent to a work camp of interracial couples, where we eat black and white cookies and listen to people boast about having created the most beautiful babies in America? Will there be trigger laws in places that will see us jailed once we cross a state line? Will we have to carry our marriage license everywhere we go? (We were married in Florida so they’ll probably just revoke it.)

Maybe we will simply be grandfathered into a narrow window of time when this nation and its leadership was not hellbent on overturning every inch of hard-won progress America has made in the last 50 years.

Advertisement

I don’t wish to sound alarmist, but a lot of things we have taken for granted during the last half-century appear to be crumbling before our eyes. And given what many Americans have lived through in recent years, if you are not in a constant state of alarm, then you are not paying attention.

When Neil Gorsuch appeared at confirmation hearings in 2017, he said Roe v. Wade was settled law, a super precedent even.

“Precedent … deserves our respect,” Mr. Gorsuch said. “And to come in and think that just because I’m new or the latest thing I’d know better than everybody who comes before me would be an act of hubris.”

You don’t say?

In 2018, Brett Kavanaugh said Roe was “settled law,” according to reported private conversations with senators. At his confirmation hearing, he said “It is settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court, entitled the respect under principles of stare decisis.” The latter being the term for historic decisions that deserve judicial reverence.

It’s a surprise then that in the recently leaked draft opinion that foresees Roe v. Wade being overturned by summer, those two justices voted in favor of sending the nation on a blast to the past, pre-1973.

What happened? The answer is simple. They lied to land a job with lifetime tenure. If Mr. Kavanaugh and Mr. Gorsuch had been under oath, it would be perjury.

But they were not, and it isn’t. Instead what we the people are left with is a coterie of liars occupying the highest court of the land who respect nothing so much as the sanctity of their own opinions.

Advertisement

Therefore, it would be foolish to accept that interracial marriage is settled law. The possibility of a challenge to Loving v. Virginia, a 1967 decision that legalized interracial marriage and is celebrated on Loving Day (June 12), should be taken seriously.

In March, Republican Sen. Mike Braun, of Indiana, said states should have the right to ban interracial marriage. Mr. Braun later attempted to tiptoe away from the issue, saying he was against racism in any form. Notably, he did not say he was in favor of Americans marrying whomever they damn well please. The senator said he “misunderstood” the question.

Let’s not have any misunderstanding about where we are in this radical and reductive stage of Americanism. Like the Supreme Court itself, your rights will not be expanding. Indeed, every right you believe you possess without limit is now under judicial scrutiny and subject to revision.

The Pew Research Center found that about 1 in 5 newlyweds married someone of a different race or ethnicity in 2019. Black and white couples made up 11% of interracial/interethnic marriages, while Hispanic and white couples constituted the largest share at over 40%, according to U.S. Census data that tracked interracial marriages from 2000 to 2016.

In the 2020 Census, respondents who identified as multiracial increased 127% in 10 years, reflecting to some degree the rising number of diverse marriages and the children they produce.

The growing numbers may indeed be the problem for many who would seek to ban such unions. But one number in particular is cited in the court’s draft opinion. Fourteen. As in the 14th Amendment, which has been the foundational basis for the right to abortion as well as the right to interracial marriage, the right to contraception, the right to consensual sex and the right to same-sex marriage.

Advertisement

Many legal experts see the presumptive court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade as opening the door to future legal challenges of these rights. Particularly at risk are those rights not “deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition,” as noted in Mr. Alito’s draft opinion.

Interracial “sex” is certainly rooted in American history — did Sally Hemings, enslaved and impregnated by Thomas Jefferson, have her choice of lovers? Marriage, not so much. In 2021, Gallup found 94% of Americans approved of Black and white people marrying, with both white and nonwhite respondents reporting similar rates of approval. The polling company began asking the question in 1958, when just 4% approved.

How much tradition is that? Enough it would seem, if this court intended to uphold the will of the people. There is no evidence it does. A majority of Americans also want abortion to remain legal.

But this activist, right-wing court appears to desire acting against the people’s majority and any established laws. It cares little for precedent and, I’d be willing to bet, even less for your right to marry whomever you love. Perhaps Clarence Thomas, who is in an interracial marriage, would oppose his conservative cohort. After all it seems he would betray any principle for Ginny.

I just hope they get on with it. Our 30th anniversary is around the corner, and we have big plans for renewing our vows. We’d rather not do it from prison, but those fines can add up quickly.

Michelle Deal-Zimmerman is senior content editor for features and an advisory member of The Sun’s Editorial Board. Her column runs every fourth Wednesday. She can be reached at nzimmerman@baltsun.com.


Advertisement