Another Parallel Between Gay Marriage and Interracial Marriage

As the North Carolina legislature considers a bill that would allow government officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages, the ACLU of North Carolina is drawing attention to an interracial couple who could not find an official to marry them in the 70s even after the Supreme Court had struck down state bans on miscegenation.

Almost 40 years after two Forsyth County magistrates refused to perform their civil marriage ceremony by citing religious objections, Thomas and Carol Ann Person, an interracial couple from North Carolina, are now speaking out against proposed legislation that would allow magistrates to refuse marriage services to any couple if they voice a religious objection…

“Nobody has a right to tell anyone who they can marry,” said Carol Ann. “I will never forget how painful it was to be told by government officials that they would not give Thomas and me a civil marriage ceremony because of the color of our skin. It was supposed to be a happy day, but instead we were turned away because of somebody else’s religious views and treated like second-class citizens. I hope those lawmakers in Raleigh stop Senate Bill 2 so that no other couple in North Carolina ever has to go through what we did when they want to marry the person they love.”

Thomas and Carol Ann, who are both legally blind, met in Raleigh and moved to Winston-Salem to work for the Industries for the Blind in the 1970s. Thomas proposed to Carol Ann in 1976, and the two eventually went to their local courthouse to receive a civil marriage ceremony. Instead, they were turned away by two magistrates who said their religious beliefs prohibited them from marrying a black man and a white woman. In 1977, a federal court ordered a magistrate to perform their marriage, and the two magistrates who originally refused were ordered to pay legal fees. The couple now lives in Robbins, North Carolina.

So would those who argue that government clerks should be allowed to refuse to perform a same-sex wedding also argue that they should be allowed to refuse to perform an interracial one? Or an interreligious one? And if so, where is the line drawn? We would have government officials refusing to apply the law equally to all citizens or residents, something that is clearly forbidden by the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. It is the very essence of the concept of equality that the government cannot refuse to apply the law equally on everyone.

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  • MikeMa

    Ed: “It is the very essence of the concept of equality that the government cannot refuse to apply the law equally on everyone.”

    Damned right.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    It is the very essence of the concept of equality that the government cannot refuse to apply the law equally on everyone.

    But they are applying it equally, to both gay men and gay women. Checkmate, Ed Bratyon!

  • mkoormtbaalt

    Can the government get out of the marriage business altogether? I’m not certain what good it does from a legal standpoint to institutionalize it. I suppose it does provide a definitive starting point to settle issues in case of a divorce, but many modern couples live together without ever marrying for years. There must be a better method to determine household property than marriage though.

  • gwangung

    Can the government get out of the marriage business altogether? I’m not certain what good it does from a legal standpoint to institutionalize it.

    I think you have this precisely backwards. Get religion out of the marriage BUSINESS.

    Marriage is indeed a legal creation and you MUST have it for proper disposition of property and inheritance. Marraige is THE best way to determine property because it’s tried and true…and that’s why marriage arose in the first place.

    Co-habitation? Don’t make me laugh (but you’ll make civil lawyers smile…lots and lots of billable hours).

  • Alverant

    To append what gwangung, the government also needs to be involved in marriage because marriage has certain rights and privileges. Things like joint filing of a tax return, spousal privilege in a court of law, division of property in a divorce (can’t get divorced if you’re not married in the first place), end of life decisions, visitation rights, military benefits, immigration, the list goes on. Marriage is a secular contract that religion has hijacked because it helped them gain more power.

  • Chiroptera

    I’ve said this before, a marriage ceremony should be a completely optional activity that is unrelated to the legal recognition of the marriage relationship.

    The couple should be required to sign the marriage license in the present of the clerk, her duly appointed subordinate, or whoever else is qualified to notarize and/or counter-sign it. Once the signatures are affixed, the couple is married.

    A ceremony can be held later in the church or flower garden of the couple’s choice, but is not required. The couple can get a nice framed certificate signed by the priest or official performing the ceremony, but it is not alone sufficient to be legally binding.

    I don’t know whether this gets around the objections of these particular officials; it wouldn’t be the official herself marrying the couple, rather, the official is merely certifying that the state now recognizes the couple as married.

  • busterggi

    I blame god for designing multipurpose plumbing.

  • hunter

    Chiroptera: Once you strip off all the window-dressing, that’s essentially the way it works now — once the license is signed, you’re married, although it’s not out of bounds for the officiating party to require verbal assent — the vows.

    Anything else is optional.

  • Chiroptera

    hunter, #8:

    Maybe I need to look into it, but I’m pretty sure in my state that it’s required that the marriage be “solemnized” by the appropriate state or church official.

    My change would exclude the church official from any legally official part of this; the appropriate state official would instead now be required in all cases, but this would be merely certifying the legal formalities have been met; there would be no confusing the role with that of a clergy member engaging in a religious ritual (which is what I got out of the officials in that state not wanting to “marry” people themselves).

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.criley jason the cripple

    I just have this vision that when Thomas and Carol Ann went to the county clerk they got a double surprise. First that they couldn’t get married because they were an interracial couple, and then that they WERE an interracial couple.

  • marcus

    hunter @ 8 In my state (Colorado) it is as you say, the signed marriage license is all that is required. My quick google survey showed that this is not true in all states.

  • marcus

    PS: In NC:

    Marriage Ceremony:

    Marriage ceremonies may be either religious or civil.

    A religious ceremony is performed by an ordained minister.

    A civil ceremony is conducted by a magistrate, the only civil officer authorized to perform marriages.*

    There must be two witnesses at any marriage ceremony, whether it is civil or religious.

    *So, in effect, a monopoly on civil ceremonies.

  • marcus

    chiroptera @ 9

    My change would exclude the church official from any legally official part of this; the appropriate state official would instead now be required in all cases, but this would be merely certifying the legal formalities have been met; there would be no confusing the role with that of a clergy member engaging in a religious ritual…

    Bold mine. Quoted for absolute agreement.