Mixed-Up on Gay Marriage (by Casey Lartigue, in The Root)

Black people, better than most, should understand the importance of being able to choose who to love and who to marry.

  • | Posted: May 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM
  • Published by The Root 

"As to mixed marriages, the most delicate question of all, it is to be noted that 29 states - all those of the South and many in the Southwest - forbid it. In the North, such marriages are frowned upon, and represent an almost insignificant percent."
--The American Negroes, special bulletin published by the U.S. Information Agency, an adjunct of the State Department, 1957
So, you wanna get married?

After years of playing (or getting played by) the field, you've found that special someone you consider irreplaceable. You agree to be together happily ever after, or for as long as you can stand each other. You tell family, friends, perhaps even former significant others. But don't forget the most important phone call of all: to your state or local government.

Five decades ago, if you and your spouse-to-be were of different races, most state governments not only would have nixed the proposed marriage, but your marriage would have been voided, your children by any previous marriage taken from you by the state, and you could have been fined and/or imprisoned for up to 10 years. Many of us (rightly) recall the case of Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple who took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court and got laws against interracial marriage banned. The 41stanniversary of the June 12 Supreme Court ruling will be especially poignant this year after the recent passing of Mrs. Loving.

But it obviously wasn't just the Lovings who had to fight for the right to choose a spouse without government interference. A year after the marriage police in Virginia arrested the Lovings, Stetson Kennedy published the satirical book Jim Crow Guide. In chapter five, "Who May Marry Whom," he discussed the many ways that interracial marriage was limited by government.

In 1949, Clark Hamilton was a 20-year-old black veteran sentenced to serve three years in the Virginia penitentiary for marrying Florence Hammond, a white woman. As Kennedy wrote: "The couple had moved to Maryland, and his sentence was suspended after he pleaded guilty. But while awaiting trial he served 82 days in a Virginia jail, and his marriage was declared void."

There was the case of David Knight, a 23-year-old white Navy veteran who in 1940 was sentenced to five years in the Mississippi penitentiary for marrying Junie Scradney, a white woman, after it was revealed in testimony that he was the great-grandson of a black woman. In 1953, Judge Wakefield Taylor of Oakland, Calif., took away the two young children of Barbara Smith Taylor after she divorced her husband and married a black man.

Given this history, it might be reasonable to conclude that black people in particular would be opposed to laws limiting marital choices among adults. Unfortunately, there are many black people who are not only critical of interracial marriage, but also support banning gay or same-sex marriage today. According to a Pew Research Poll taken after the Massachusetts Supreme Court upheld same-sex marriage, far more blacks than whites disagreed with the court's decision. And that doesn't even include what is said at black barbershops.

As columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson notes, many blacks "seethe" at the comparison. As the argument goes, interracial marriage should not be compared to gay marriage because of the oppression blacks have suffered. Hutchinson dismisses that as being "self-serving." It is also myopic, a case of a former slave putting on his former master's clothing and wanting others to be treated as slaves.

The way to view this issue is to understand that government prohibition against marriages between consenting adults is a form of government oppression and a denial of individual liberty. In 1948, when the Supreme Court of California became the first state to strike down a ban on interracial marriage, Justice Roger Traynor wrote on behalf of individual liberty: "A member of any of these races may find himself barred by law from marrying the person of his choice and that person to him may be irreplaceable." [Emphasis added]

If you do find that someone special whom you consider irreplaceable, why would you want or need the government to give you permission to marry? At most, government should, in this case, fulfill the role of a clerk who takes down your basic information and files it away. For citizens making marital plans, we should give the government the equivalent of name, rank and serial number.

My former Cato Institute colleague David Boaz suggests that privatization is a "simple solution" to the battle over marriage in its various forms. "Make it a private contract between two individuals. Marriage contracts could be as individually tailored as other contracts are in our diverse capitalist world. This would "allow gay people to marry the way other people do: individually, privately, contractually, with whatever ceremony they might choose in the presence of family, friends or God."

When it comes to our voluntary, consensual associations with other adults, we may need to give the government notification, but that should not be confused with seeking permission. If there was ever an issue in which government and other third parties should butt out, it is the choice of a spouse. My conservative friends who say "you can't legislate morality" nevertheless want to do so when it comes to gay marriage.

Gay people are now fighting for the right to marry the person they choose, someone they consider irreplaceable. I hope they get what they want. I would also advise that they try to find a client with a surname like Liberty or Freedom to be a plaintiff. It worked out for the Lovings.

Casey Lartigue is a former policy analyst with Cato's Center for Educational Freedom

Original Root link


Roundtable: Sean Bell Protests & Presidential Politics

Listen Now [17 min 46 sec] add to playlist

News & Notes , May 7, 2008 · On today's bloggers roundtable, Farai Chideya moderates a conversation about the latest string of protests over the shooting death of Sean Bell, last night's Democratic primary results, and the death of interracial marriage pioneer, Mildred Loving.

Joining in the conversation are bloggers Carmen Van Kerckhove of Racialicious; Baratunde Thurston of Jack & Jill Politics; and Casey Lartigue of The Casey Lartigue Show!

The Root

I've got a piece on The Root this morning.

Empty Threats: A History
Still taking the black vote for granted after all these years.
Updated: 5:33 PM ET May 9, 2008

May 12, 2008--If Sen. Clinton somehow manages to wrest the nomination from Sen. Barack Obama, black voters, we are being told, are likely to sit at home or vote Republican.

But haven't we heard these types of threats before? Black Democrats have been warning for decades that their party will be in trouble if they keep taking the black vote for granted in the general election. Still others have warned that Republicans could steal a large number of black votes as a result. Based on recent history, Black Democrats will huff and puff, then... stand in line to vote for the Democrat presidential candidate, hustle around the country and exhort blacks to vote.

Let's take a trip down memory lane:


At a black political strategy meeting held in Charlotte, N.C., blacks lamented that Democrats take the black vote for granted while Republicans largely ignore it.

--The New York Times, May 8, 1976

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., criticized Democrats for taking the black vote for granted and Republicans for ignoring poor and black Americans.

--The New York Times, August 15, 1976

Final 1976 tally

Jimmy Carter, Democrat, 85 percent of the black vote (election winner)

Gerald Ford, Republican, 15 percent of the black vote.


[Rep. John] Conyers D-Mich. said it is obvious that [Sen. Edward ]Kennedy enjoys widespread support among rank-and-file black Democrats. "The defections in the Carter camp grow daily," he said, adding that it would be a mistake to take the black vote for granted.

Source: The Associated Press, Oct 31, 1979

Jesse Jackson said President Carter should not take the black vote for granted in the 1980 election and that the possibility of black support for GOP candidate Ronald Reagan should not be dismissed out of hand. "His bark is greater than his bite, judging from what he did in California," Jackson said of Reagan. "I do not want to reduce our options." He added that Reagan's choice of George Bush as his running mate shows some flexibility. "The idea that blacks won't vote for a Republican is inaccurate," Jackson said, citing black support of Sen. Charles Percy, R-Ill., and former Sen. Edward Brooke, R-Mass.

Source: The Associated Press, July 20, 1980

Maudine R. Cooper, the Urban League's vice president for Washington operations, echoed Jackson's warning: "We cannot be wed to any party or candidate."

Source: The Washington Post, August 9, 1980

Final 1980 tally:

Democrat Jimmy Carter—86 percent of the black vote

Republican Ronald Reagan—12 percent (election winner)


"A further objective of Mr. Jackson's campaign was to serve notice that white Democrats should not take black votes for granted and that Republicans could not afford to write them off entirely."

Source: The New York Times, November 26, 1984

Final 1984 tally:

Democrat Walter Mondale—89 percent of the black vote

Republican Ronald Reagan—9 percent of the black vote(election winner)


"[Evangelist and presidential candidate Pat] Robertson's campaign staff argued that he would let Democrats know they cannot take the black vote for granted. George Vinnett, his black national press secretary, insisted the white evangelist would get interracial support."

Source: United Press International, October 1, 1987

''The time has passed when Democrats can take the black vote for granted. The New Alliance Party gives voters an alternative to the two major parties,'' said Lenora B. Fulani, presidential candidate of the New Alliance Party

Source: Christian Science Monitor, July 7, 1988

Marva Gibbs, a program director for a health care agency in Summerville, S.C., said she would vote for Mr. Bush because "Democrats don't stand more for blacks than Republicans, so why be loyal to them?" "Democrats take black votes for granted and think they can do anything they want and because we're black we'll vote Democratic," she added.

The New York Times , October 27, 1988

Final 1988 tally:

Democrat Michael Dukakis—88 percent of the black vote

Republican George H.W. Bush—10 percent of the black vote (election winner)


Jesse Jackson tells reporters: "Don't take the black vote for granted." Jackson hinted that he might bolt the party and take millions of black voters with him unless he gets more respect from his fellow Democrats and unless Congress passes the 1991 Civil Rights Act.

Source: SeattlePost-Intelligencer, May 24, 1991

"...although the Sister Souljah controversy may not have hurt him to any great degree among Black voters, Gov. Clinton would be wise to not assume that he can take the Black vote for granted, no matter what he does."

Source: Calvin W. Rolark, WashingtonInformer, June 24, 1992

"There's no question Mr. Clinton's strategy is to aim his message at the moderate, white Southerners and take the black vote for granted," [pollster Whit] Ayres said. "Not surprisingly, every indication I get is that black voters are quite ambivalent about Mr. Clinton's candidacy."

Source: OrlandoSentinel, October 26, 1992

Final 1992 tally:

Lawrence Lucier / Getty Images

Democrat Bill Clinton—82 percent of the black vote

Republican George H.W. Bush—11 percent of the black vote


..Once again, civil rights leaders say they have no real choice but to help the Democrats retain control of Congress."This is not the first time we've had to save the captain from sinking the ship, especially when we are on the ship - and in the hull of it at that," said Jesse Jackson, who is campaigning for the Democratic National Committee to get out the black, urban and labor vote.

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 30, 1994.

Bernard Shaw, host: "[D]o the Democrats realize there's a firebell in the night, that blacks are beginning to look at the Republican Party very seriously and that there are viable candidates running?"

Source: CNN, Inside Politics, November 1, 1994

Final 1996 tally:

Democrat Bill Clinton—84 percent of the black vote

Republican Bob Dole—12 percent of the black vote


The apparent ability of some Republican candidates to attract a significant minority of black voters can now work to the political advantage of African Americans. Facing new competition from the GOP, Democrats will no longer be able to take the black vote for granted. Increasingly, they will be forced to pay attention to black voter concerns in order to solidify their electoral base.

Source: Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, October 31, 1999

[NAACP president] Kweisi Mfume said that for too long, black America has been caught between the policies of Republicans who eschew minority issues and of Democrats who take the black vote for granted."That type of folly must end," Mfume said.

Source: The Associated Press, July 8, 2000

Final 2000 tally:

Democrat Al Gore: 90 percent of the black vote

Republican George W. Bush: 9 percent of the black vote

Pool / Getty Images


"There are some clear warning signs that the Democrats should heed, and not assume rampant support from African-Americans in November based simply on traditional voting patterns," said Pamela Gentry, BET Nightly News Washington bureau chief and senior producer.

Source: HoustonChronicle, July 23, 2004

U.S. Rep. John Conyers of Detroit said Kerry is smart to not take black votes for granted. "Frequently we come to the black community too little and too late," said Conyers, who is black. "The biggest vote, by far, is in the African-American community where only half the people are voting, but those who vote vote 90 percent Democratic."

Source: Associated Press, July 15, 2004

Final 2004 tally:

Democrat John Kerry—88 percent of the black vote

Republican George W. Bush—11 percent of the black vote (election winner)


A big sticking point for many panelists at the NAACP's Freedom Weekend Freedom Institute's forum was that the Democratic Party "takes the black vote for granted," said Bankole Thompson, Michigan Chronicle senior editor.

Source" Detroit Free Press April 27, 2008

"But before Democratic superdelegates get too itchy to snuff the Obama campaign, they should consider the new animal that move might spawn: the Obama Republican. I know: the notion of black folks and young folks and progressive white folks abandoning the Democrats en masse if the Wife of Bill is the nominee ain't exactly new; Right here on The Root, the writer William Jelani Cobb espoused a McCain protest vote in November, and has since accepted a ticket to Denver as a Democratic delegate in August. But that makes the threat no less real. Any Democratic honcho needing a lesson in the power of disaffected black voters need only Google "2002 and Clarence Mitchell IV."

Source: The RootApril 25, 2008.

"Let's be clear. When black folks switch parties, we do it decisively. After nearly a century of unwavering commitment to the party of Lincoln, it was Republican Barry Goldwater's presidential bid in 1964, designed to appeal to entrenched American racism, which led to an increase in black Democratic Party identifiers from 59 percent to 86 percent in a single election. Despite Obama's call for unity in his North Carolina victory speech last night, black Americans will not stand behind a candidate who deploys a Goldwater strategy within our own party. Our opposition to the war will not allow us to vote for McCain, but we can choose to exit the coalition, withhold our votes, to protest a Clinton candidacy. This is not a threat. It is an observation based on historical evidence."

Source: The Root, May 7, 2008

Final 2008 tally?

Win McNamee / Getty Images
YURI GRIPAS / AFP/Getty Images

Casey Lartigue, Jr. is an education consultant based in Virginia.

linked by Marc Lamont Hill,


Chaos continues at Radio One

The only national black talk network has been having a lot of trouble. Of course, I point to the day they pulled my show off the air as the beginning of the end.

1) According to the Washington Post: Radio One's stock lost 17 percent of its value this week, closing yesterday at $1.06. Since last year, when the company's stock traded at a [sic: high] of $7.59, its value has declined 85 percent.

2) The son of the founder of the company has just received a generous pay raise and compensation package. According to the Washington Post: Liggins would receive $980,000 in salary, a 70 percent increase over the $575,370 he made in 2007, and have the opportunity to match that in an annual bonus, contingent in part on the company meeting certain performance goals. He would be paid a $1 million "signing bonus" because, the Radio One compensation committee said, he has been underpaid for the last three years. Liggins also would be paid $4.8 million to compensate him for losses he incurred when he was forced to repay a company loan to buy Radio One stock several years ago.

3) The ReidBlog reports that Lee Michaels, former national program director of Syndication One and XM 169 The Power, has just gotten fired. Michaels is the one who pulled my radio show off the air after we had a dispute over my show on urban legends. Reid also tells the following story: Apparently, the company finally managed to sell its L.A. station, (then called KKBT - 100.3 The Beat, now called V100, and the station that used to employ Steve Harvey, before the Radio One folks kicked him to the curb, allegedly over remarks he made about Cathy Hughes as she sat in the audience for the BET Comedy Awards, which he was hosting. The station, which with Harvey had the number one show in the market, promptly went in the tank after that, and in 2005, Harvey jumped to Clear Channel. The rest, as they say, is history...



AIDS and the government

Rev. Jeremiah Wright has attracted a lot of attention with his theories about the federal government creating AIDS in a laboratory. Here's an excerpt excerpt from Talk Radio Can't Handle the Truth By Casey Lartigue Jr. and Eliot Morgan

Sunday, August 5, 2007; Page B03

Often, just one word can silence those who doubt the conspiracy theory of the day: COINTELPRO, the FBI's notorious anticommunist program that was used against groups such as the Southern Christian Leadership Council and the Ku Klux Klan. From the Scottsboro Boys to the Tuskegee syphilis study, our government has displayed a willingness to conspire against its citizens.

Likewise, truth-squadding becomes difficult when such theories are linked to hard data: Black Americans constitute about 12 percent of the U.S. population but about half of the nation's AIDS cases. That sets up the conditions in which, according to researchers Sheryl Thorburn Bird and Laura M. Bogart, more than 20 percent of black Americans think that HIV was created to restrict the black population.

A 1990 survey by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference found that one-third of black American churchgoers believed that AIDS was a form of genocide. One-third also believed that HIV was produced in a germ-warfare lab, and 40 percent of black college students in Washington, D.C., agreed. An even higher percentage of blacks polled said they thought that crack cocaine was custom-made to be planted in African American communities to keep them crime-ridden and poor and that the government deliberately targeted black elected officials to drive them from office.

These beliefs keep some black Americans from having their children vaccinated, from receiving AIDS tests and early medical treatment, and from practicing safe sex or using clean needles, as Patricia A. Turner and Gary Alan Fine note in their book, "Whispers on the Color Line." They also make seeking the truth an uphill battle.