Home / General / Comparisons between Loving v. Virginia and the gay marriage cases aren’t apt

Comparisons between Loving v. Virginia and the gay marriage cases aren’t apt

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I discuss the differences, which are more significant than the similarities.

Remarkably, a majority of Americans, and a huge majority of white Americans, continued to say they were opposed interracial marriage until the late 1990s, 30 years after Loving v. Virginia. (I suspect the number of people willing to say they’re opposed is actually a good deal smaller than the number who are actually opposed). The situation with gay marriage is quite different:

First, contrary to claims of cultural conservatives, the Supreme Court’s ruling today can’t be characterized as the imposition of elite political preferences on the nation as a whole. The solid majority of the nation as a whole supports gay marriage, and it seems likely that within a very few years, opposition to the institution will be as marginal a position as (at least open) opposition to interracial marriage is today.

Second, the history of opposition to interracial marriage indicates that a Supreme Court decision by itself will often do little or nothing to sway public opinion in regard to this sort of issue. In 1967, the Supreme Court of the day threw down a legal gauntlet to one of the most powerful – and, as it would develop – intractable symbols of institutionalized racism in America. That decision seems to have had almost no effect on public opinion, which changed very slowly, and largely if not wholly for other reasons.

By contrast, today the Supreme Court is merely putting its stamp of approval on a political movement that was already winning the battle in the court of public opinion. And that stamp will probably have little effect on the cultural processes that determine how quickly gay marriage receives something closer to universal public acceptance

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