Is Banning Same-sex Marriage Like Banning Interracial Marriage?

Posted: May 16, 2012 by Alan Shlemon in Do the Right Thing
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Let me be blunt: denying same-sex couples from marriage is not the same as denying interracial couples from it. Although anti-miscegenation laws were immoral, the same mistake is not happening today. And despite the rhetorical force of making the comparison, merely claiming it’s the same does not make it so.

One of the problems with this comparison is that it presumes sexual orientation is a genetically predetermined trait like race. But it’s not, as I’ve argued in a previous post. Numerous researchers have also testified to this. Francis Collins, who led the Human Genome Project to identify every human gene, has said regarding homosexuality: “Whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations…”[i] Harvard geneticist and homosexual, Dean Hamer, admitted that, “The best recent study suggests that female sexual identification is more a matter of environment than heredity.”[ii] Even the American Psychological Association, a group that advances homosexual causes, doesn’t claim that genes determine sexual orientation. They say, “Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.”[iii]

Homosexuality, then, develops also from environmental factors, not merely genetic ones. And since environmental factors vary in type, frequency, and degree, homosexuality is not inescapable. Depending on your developmental environment, you could or could not develop same-sex attractions.

Race, however, is entirely genetic and therefore inescapable. You’re not born an African American – you’re conceived as one. Your race is determined the moment the chromosomes of the sperm and egg blend together. Nothing will change that. Neither your mother’s diet, the hormones in her womb, nor intrauterine trauma will alter your birth as an African American. And once you’re born, your race is impervious to cultural, social, or psychological influences during childhood development. Nothing can alter – even slightly – your race.

That means homosexuals can’t claim they’re like African Americans in the sense that they are born that way. Their plight is not the same. African Americans are genetically born that way. Homosexuals are not.

But the differences grow more significant. Since homosexuality is not merely the product of genes, it is mutable. Homosexuals can and do change. I personally know men who have changed. This type of mutability has been observed for thousands of years and documented by researchers for the last one hundred years (I’ve written about this in a previous post). In fact, sexual orientation in females is quite fluid.

Actress Anne Heche is an example. She grew up as a heterosexual, got involved in a lesbian relationship with Ellen DeGeneres, then married a man with whom she had a child, and now is living with another man. The same is true of former “Sex and the City” star, Cynthia Nixon. She grew up heterosexual, married a man, and had two children. In 2004, she became a lesbian. Nixon also infuriated the homosexual community by claiming that her change in orientation was, “a choice.” She went on to explain: “I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me… Why can’t it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate?”[iv]

My point is not that sexual orientation is a choice. I’m simply acknowledging that it’s mutable for some people.

Race, however, is immutable. I don’t know any African Americans that have changed their race. None of them have become Swedish for a few years. It can’t happen, even in principle.

But there’s even a more significant problem with comparing homosexuals with African Americans, especially with regards to the issue of marriage. Interracial couples can marry because they can fulfill an essential function of marriage. As Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse has explained, marriages bind males and females for the long term and protect the rights children have to be with their parents. Male-female unions are the precise kind of pairing that produces children and provides the ideal environment to raise them. Having an African American marry a Caucasian doesn’t impact that function in any way.

Homosexual couples, on the other hand, don’t include both sexes. Not only are they incapable – by nature – to produce children, but they are also ill-suited to raise kids who need a mother and a father (I’ve argued this in a previous post). That’s why the state has never sanctioned the relationship of two men or two women, but they sanction interracial unions so long as they’re heterosexual.

Homosexuals are hoping to convince the culture that their plight is the same as African Americans. Naturally, this has a strong, rhetorical effect. But with careful reflection it becomes apparent the two groups are not parallel in meaningful ways. That’s because race and sex are not the same. This makes all the difference.

[i] F. Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (New York: Free Press, 2007), 260.

[ii] D. Hamer and P. Copeland, Living with Our Genes: Why They Matter More Than You Think (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1009), 188.

  1. “Race, however, is immutable. I don’t know any African Americans that have changed their race. None of them have become Swedish for a few years. It can’t happen, even in principle.”

    This makes me think about the law of identity, and how if something is possibly true for X that is not even possibly true for Y, then X is not identical to Y.

  2. Derron says:

    If you trace the developement of miscegenation laws you will see that interracial marriages were occurring and some sought to stop it. Homosexual marriage, on the other hand, is not naturally happening and is an invention that needs the support of the government to be accepted.

  3. Scooter says:

    Same sex marriage bans are IDENTICAL to interracial marriage bans. They ban couples from getting married. Period. Interracial marriage bans existed and same sex marriage bans exist for EXACTLY the same reason which simply put is because of the ‘will of the people’. Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and the appropriately named Richard Loving, a white man, CHOSE to be married to each other despite society’s opposition and laws against such a union. They had a CHOICE, they ‘could have’ instead CHOSEN to each marry someone of their own race like society wanted them to do, and yet against society and the law of Virginia they CHOSE to pursue life, liberty, and happiness as an unlawfully married mixed race couple. They were prosecuted for their willful violation of the law and thankfully in 1967 the US Supreme Court struck down interracial marriage bans nationwide. Marriage is a choice. Period. Cynthia Nixon just married her same sex partner as they CHOSE to pursue life, liberty, and happiness together. Same sex marriage bans will be reversed in time because of the fact that these bans deprive same sex couples of rights, benefits, and protections that are afforded to married couples. And as for the notion of trying to keep same sex marriage bans intact and extending the same rights, benefits, and protections in the form of ‘civil unions / just don’t call them marriages’, that might extend same sex marriage bans for a while, but ultimately ‘separate but equal’ will fall to full marriage equality.

    • Amy Hall says:

      Scooter, there is a big difference. Is it okay to have separate bathrooms for blacks and whites? Of course not! Is it okay to have separate bathrooms for men and women? Of course! The fact is that your skin color is not at all relevant to anything. There are no relevant differences between a white person and a black person. But there are quite a few differences between men and women, and these differences are relevant to the institution of marriage. (Note that the relevant differences are not the differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals, but between women and men.)

      Here’s an example of what I mean by relevant differences: Suppose a person walks into a bar and the bartender yells, “Get out of here! We don’t serve people like you here!” Is that unjust discrimination? The answer is, it depends. If he’s saying that because the person is black, then that is unjust discrimination because skin color is irrelevant to drinking in a bar. But what if the person is a ten-year-old kid? In that case, it’s not a matter of civil rights for the bartender to give him what he’s asking for because age is relevant to the situation.

      The reproductive system is the only bodily system that requires another person to complete it. The bringing together of two physically complementary persons completes this system, and that is the type of union that society has an interest in protecting because that act is the act that produces children (whether or not it does so in any particular case–it’s not the government’s job to ensure that marriage does lead to children, it’s only its job to protect it because it’s the kind of union that leads to children, and therefore needs to be protected because of what naturally will result from it in general). If the union of a man and a woman didn’t have the social consequences of creating a family by nature, marriage (the stabilization of that union by society) would never have existed.

      Why define marriage as a man and a woman? Because those are the complementary persons whose union creates new life. The traditional marriage advocate is arguing not from bigotry or even from tradition, but from principles of reality that remain unchanged despite anyone’s personal preferences.

      The truth is that there are many different types of groups we don’t allow to get married, not just same-sex couples. We don’t allow polygamy or incest, for example. It’s not just an open choice, and I suspect not even you want it to be an open choice, but prefer some boundaries (perhaps for the number of people who can be in one marriage), and wish to deny some groups the choice to marry. The question becomes, which boundaries to marriage are relevant to the institution? Race clearly isn’t, but what about sex (male and female)? It seems as if it’s at least possibly more relevant than race, right? Men and women are different physically and emotionally–they create life together and bring different benefits to their children. They are different enough that you ought to consider those differences and hear the arguments of those who explain why those differences are relevant to marriage.

      Currently, the rights of every man, and the options of people he can choose from to marry, are exactly the same for every man, regardless of his orientation. They are all treated equally as individuals. This was not the case with a ban on interracial marriage. In that case, the choices of marriage were restricted such that a black man had different people he could choose from than a white man could choose from. The two men were not treated equally in that case.

      I recommend you look into why people support traditional marriage because it doesn’t sound like you’ve heard the arguments against same-sex marriage. People usually think they’ve heard it all, but I’ve rarely found a supporter of same-sex marriage who had actually heard and considered the arguments of the other side. If nothing else, it will help you know how better to argue against us! here are a few articles to look into:

      Marriage and the Presidency

      Two Steps from Reasonable about Marriage
      What Is Marriage?
      Three-Judge Panel Strikes Down Prop 8