It looks like this is the second time this week I will be taking the Heritage Foundation to task for shabby analysis (here is the first). A week ago, Ryan T. Anderson at the Heritage Foundation wrote an article entitled Is Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage at All Like Opposition to Interracial Marriage? No., and it reminds me once again that when the Heritage Foundation tries to analyze social issues, it is way off. The author starts by saying that allowing for same-sex marriage is a violation of religious liberty. He then continues by saying "marriage has been and continues to be between one man and one woman." Finally, he ironically argues that although Jim Crow laws and bans on interracial marriage were based on prejudice, the argument for opposition to same-sex marriage is based on reason. I am going to respond to the author point-by-point and illustrate once again why secular opposition to same-sex marriage doesn't have a leg to stand on.
Definition of Marriage
Although this was not addressed first in the article, my comments on this question are prefatory to replying to this sorry excuse of an analysis. Opposition to same-sex marriage is based on the idea that marriage has historically been between one man and one woman, and has been unchanging. In spite of what the opposition has to say on the matter, the definition of marriage has changed multiple times throughout history to adapt to evolving social and cultural norms. In pre-modern times, marriage was arranged by the parents as a way to improve upon one's social status. Women were essentially treated like the husband's property. It is no wonder that one could not marry outside of one's socio-economic status, religion, or race. The idea of marrying someone out of love is a relatively recent concept. There was also a time when it was acceptable for a man to marry a twelve-year old girl, and none of this counts all of the polygamy that existed outside of Western civilization. Even the Bible itself doesn't hold to the one man/one woman definition of marriage (see below). The argument that "marriage has always been between one man and woman" is simply false. Even if it were true, it is still falls under the logical fallacy of argumentum ad antiquitatem because the fact that something has been done for many years has no bearing on whether it is correct. Like any other institution, marriage can adapt and evolve for the better. In its simplest terms, marriage is a contract between consenting individuals that want to develop a committed relationship. Being able to legally sign such a contract is not only a civil right, but is one of the most basic of economic rights that exists.
Is Allowing Same-Sex Marriage a Violation of Religious Beliefs?
I have to answer this question with a resounding "NO!" I tackled the issue of the violation of religious beliefs a year ago, and the Heritage Foundation's argument does not apply here. The author mentions allowing businesses to run their business in accordance with the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. This argument is inaccurate because whether a baker is forced to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding is a separate issue from whether two consenting adults of the same sex are allowed to marry each other. One has the right to believe that same-sex marriage is against the Bible, but no one has the right to impose that right on society. Doing so would be a violation of the First Amendment. If you do not like same-sex marriage, don't get married to someone of the same sex!
Is Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage Based on Reason, and Not on Prejudice?
This is another question I have to answer with a resounding "NO!" The last thing upon which the opposition to same-sex marriage is based is reason because there is no logical argument against same-sex marriage (see here, here, here, and here). The author argues that "the bans on interracial marriage and Jim Crow laws, by contrast, were aspects of a much larger insidious movement that denied the fundamental equality and dignity of all human beings and forcibly segregated citizens." This is the author's attempt to try to make interracial marriage and same-sex marriage as dissimilar as possible. One of the differences between the two is that one can hide their sexuality, but one really cannot hide the color of their skin. If homosexuals had some distinguishing mark on them, it would be reasonable to assume that they would have undergone a segregation similar to those subjugated under Jim Crow laws.
The author's implication that homosexual individuals do not experience discrimination or that are not deprived of their fundamental equality and dignity is as egregious as it is ignorant. For one, homosexual individuals still has to deal with workplace discrimination. In terms of hate crimes, LGBT individuals are still high on the list of being victimized (see FBI Hate Crime data). LGBT youth make up for forty percent of those living out on the streets. Homosexual individuals in most states cannot adopt children. Although there has been progress made in terms of LGBT rights, most notably in terms of the right for same sex-marriage, there is still a lot of progress that needs to be made before the [legalized] prejudice against homosexual individuals stops.
Why The Fight For Same-Sex Marriage Is Similar to That of Interracial Marriage
There are many similarities between the fights between these two civil rights, one of them being that the Religious Right used the Bible to justify their views on both. With interracial marriage, it was twisting the verses about interfaith marriage, amongst other verses, to justify their bigotry. Now they're erroneously using Leviticus 18:22 to advance their agenda. For either one, opponents use the argument that this sort of union was unprecedented, abominable, unnatural, will destroy society and "traditional marriage," and will end up being a slippery slope to polygamy and incest. Also, there is that fun argument of "Oh, gay people can just marry people of the opposite sex" is very similar to "Oh, people are allowed to still marry, as long as it's within their own race." Rather than being dissimilar scenarios, the arguments that were used against interracial marriage mirror those that are currently used against same-sex marriage (see Loving v. Virginia as a legalistic example).
The fight for interracial marriage was not only won based on the idea that the color of one's skin is only skin deep, but the idea that at the end of the day, we're all human and we are all looking for love, companionship, and a deep commitment with someone, all of which are essential components of a marriage. I hope there is a day where the vast majority of Americans realize that much like individuals of color, homosexual individuals are human beings like anyone else, and as such, should be afforded the same opportunity to experience life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.