Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Forbidden Love........

This week I have been thinking about forbidden love - you know the kind - you fall in love and you get prosecuted. Over the years there have been many kinds of love (and many kinds of loving) that have been prohibited and the church and the state have interfered with the power of love for centuries. I just finished reading Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett and falling in love without the sanctity of marriage meant that the church could impose many strict punishments.

But what really captured my attention was the recent report of the death of Mildred Loving. Mildred was a young woman (of African and Native American descent)who fell in love and married a white man in in 1958. They were married in the District of Columbia having left their home in Virginia to evade the Racial Integrity Act, a state law banning marriages between any white person and a black person (there was no law banning marriage with other ethnicities as they were not seen to represent a significant enough population to be a problem). Upon their return to Virginia, they were charged with "miscegenation", a felony punishable by a prison sentence of between one and five years. On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pleaded guilty and were sentenced to one year in prison, with the sentence suspended for 25 years on condition that the couple leave the state of Virginia. The trial judge in the case, Leon Bazile, echoing Johann Friedrich Blumenbach's 18th-century interpretation of race, proclaimed that

“ 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. ”

In 1963, as a result of a civil rights case brought by the Lovings, the United States Supreme Court declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute, the "Racial Integrity Act of 1924", unconstitutional, thereby ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States. When we think of the laws prohibiting the Lovings from marrying they now seem so terribly wrong, unfair and misguided. But the definition of a marriage and what constitutes a family is still being reconsidered today.

This young couple in Scotland have been prohibited from having marital relations - they are half-siblings that never lived together or knew about each other until they met as adults. Heck, even Brothers and Sisters features two half-siblings (or are they?) who are attracted to each other romantically.

Marriage equality movements for same-sex partnerships are challenging other prohibited (or discouraged) unions and thanks to the the Mormons and strange sects of the LDS we are forced to examine our opinions regarding polygamy and child marriages. To me, the only real problem I have with two people making a decision to marry is when one might be a child who has been coerced or can't make their own independent decision. Otherwise, two consenting adults making a decision to marry? Church and State - keep out of their bedrooms.........

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While generally I agree with you with respect to consenting adults of a certain age being able to make their own decisions about who to marry, aren't consanguinity laws based on the concern that inbreeding can lead to an increase in genetic defects. For that reason I think laws prohibiting marriage between closely related individuals have some validity. Having said that, it may be that these laws are not as necessary as they once were, given the nature of modern society where there is so much opportunity to meet people outside of one's own family and community.