God and the right to marry

People of faith have a history of denying certain groups of people the right to marry.

Mildred and Richard Loving

Mildred and Richard Loving (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not all that long ago, in 1958, Virginia authorities arrested Mildred and Richard Loving and banished them from the state. Their crime: she was black; he was white. “Almighty God,” the judge said, “created races white, black, yellow, malay, and red, and he placed them on separate continents….The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

The first law preventing marriage between races was established in 1664 by the Maryland colony, which was concerned about the number of white servant women marrying slave men. Would their offspring be slave or free? Over time forty states banned some form of interracial marriage. Lower courts upheld these antimiscegenation decrees on grounds that making laws about marriage is a prerogative of the state; natural law dictates that the races not intermarry; non-whites are physically and mentally inferior; and marriage between people of different races threatens the order and peace of the community.

Not until 1967, in Loving v. Virginia, did the Supreme Court strike down (unanimously) these statutes. “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men,” the court opinion stated.

Today few Americans oppose interracial marriage on the basis of God’s disapproval. Did we decide that God is more tolerant than we thought? Or did we misunderstand God’s intent?

Now the target is gays and lesbians. Scriptures against homosexuality are not as clear as many claim. I’ll let theologians argue that point and hope they cite other scriptures, such as ones saying we are to stone rebellious sons to death (Deut. 21:18-21).

For those of us who are straight, our lives daily intersect with gay women and men. They are our sons, our daughters, our colleagues, our neighbors, our friends. We know them to be active citizens, hard workers, conscientious parents, devout Christians. Many in long-term loving relationships want not just the legitimacy of their relationship to be recognized by the state but also the same legal protections heterosexuals take for granted. These include property rights, inheritance, insurance coverage, parenting rights, and life and death decisions.

It is time to grant our fellow citizens full legal rights. Including the right to marry.


Nancy Werking Poling is author of Had Eve Come First and Jonah Been a Woman. Currently she is seeking a publisher for Before it was Legal: a black-white marriage, 1945-1986.

2 thoughts on “God and the right to marry

  1. Nancy, today is the first day I have had to read some of your articles. I love your way with words and how you think. I am guessing that I am opposite you in abilities and talents.. I am a hands-on visual person. Our new neighbors don’t know what to think of me yet as they watch me create a new set of back steps for our house, this time designed to have the architectual look I want rather than just being functional. The husband came over to “help”, thinking that being a woman I couldn’t know what I was doing. I am assuming he also thought I needed protecting, when he saw me pick up and use a circular saw. My husband, on the other hand, loves my creativity no matter what the medium. I look forward to learning more about you as we get acquainted.

    • Thanks, Ardis. I envy people who can visualize what they want (particularly in regard to a house) and are able to accomplish it. And to be able to do “men’s work” on top of that! Wow! If you’re interested in reading past blogs, I continue to post at http://www.smearedtype.com. Two other writers post there, so you have to go to the right-hand column that says “Categories” and click on my name. Not that I expect you to quickly digest all the thoughts I’ve put into writing. I look forward to our staying in touch.

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