I seem to have made an unexpected midlife career move, and no, it isn’t lucrative. After almost 20 years of standing on a soapbox for gay marriage, I am standing on another soapbox making the case for tolerating people who oppose same-sex marriage.
The other day, I joined 57 other supporters of gay marriage in a public statement called “Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent: Why We Must Have Both.” You can read it here. You can even sign it here. I won’t repeat that argument. But I want to add something to it—something about race.
One objection to socially tolerating opposition to gay marriage comes up again and again. For many people, it seems to be the only way they can think about the issue. It’s this:
Isn’t opposition to gay marriage just like opposition to interracial marriage? We don’t tolerate racism. So we shouldn’t tolerate this.
Until the Supreme Court’s 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia, some states banned interracial marriage—just as most states today ban same-sex marriage. Then, as now, defenders of the iniquitous status quo made arguments based on religion, the nature of marriage, and the welfare of children and society. Today, of course, there is no excuse for supporting anti-miscegenation laws; such support would be beyond the pale of reasonable discussion in mainstream American life. And similarly there’s no excuse for opposing marriage equality. Someone like former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, who was forced out over his support for California’s ban on gay marriage, deserves no different treatment than the complete ostracism he would receive if he had said, “It’s just my personal belief, but blacks and whites shouldn’t be allowed to intermarry.”
So the argument goes. But it’s wrong.
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