North Carolina became the last southern state to adopt a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage Tuesday, and like its fellow southern states, it has a long history with regulating marriages. The last time the state amended its constitution to regulate marriage, it was to ban miscegenation, Think Progress tweets (pictured at left). And just like in the bad old days, the southerners can count on some northerners to help ensure that couples can't skirt the law. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney proudly says that when he was governor, "On my watch, we fought hard and prevented Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage." He accomplished this by invoking a 1913 law meant to keep out-of-state interracial couples from coming to Massachusetts to get married.
In April, The Los Angeles Times' Matea Gold and Melanie Mason explained that Romney did this by envoking the 1913 Marriage Evasion Act, a law based on model legislation pushed by a group wanting more uniform state laws. Though the law had been largely forgotten by the time the Massachusetts Supreme Court allowed gay marriage in 2003, the Times reports, "Romney aides said there was little debate internally about the merits of using it to blunt the ruling's effects." Romney used the Las Vegas line way back then, adding, "We do not intend to export our marriage confusion to the entire nation." There's oddly a whole lot of overlap between the arguments against gay marriage and interracial marriage.
First, there's the "slippery slope" idea, which says that if we allow gay marriage, we have to allow all kinds of stuff. Rick Santorum used this idea to make his infamous "man on dog" case against gay marriage. But the argument was made by R. D. McIlwaine III, then Virginia's assistant attorney general, in Loving v. the State of Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court case that overturned miscegenation laws:
It is clear from the most recent available evidence on the psycho-sociological aspect of this question that intermarried families are subjected to much greater pressures and problems then those of the intermarried and that the state's prohibition of interracial marriage for this reason stands on the same footing as the prohibition of polygamous marriage, or incestuous marriage or the prescription of minimum ages at which people may marry and the prevention of the marriage of people who are mentally incompetent.
Then there's the "think of the children" line, which says that kids raised by two parents of the opposite sex are better off than those who aren't. Santorum made this case in January, when he said kids were better off having a dad in jail than no dad at all, and that gay marriage is "robbing children of something they need, they deserve, they have a right to." McIlwaine made that case too:
Now if the state has an interest in marriage, if it has an interest in maximizing the number of stable marriages and in protecting the progeny of interracial marriages from these problems, then clearly. there is scientific evidence available that is so. It is not infrequent that the children of intermarried parents are referred to not merely as the children of intermarried parents but as the 'victims' of intermarried parents and as the 'martyrs' of intermarried parents.
There's the idea that the white race must be preserved. You wouldn't think this has a connection to gay marriage, but the issue came up last week in North Carolina. Jodie Brunstetter, the wife of a North Carolina state senator, Peter Brunstetter, allegedly implied in a discussion with poll workers that the gay marriage ban would help stall the decline of "the Caucasian race." The details of what actually happened last week are unclear. But according to Kate Maloy, who was lobbying against the ban, Brunstetter said the ban would uphold the Founding Fathers' ideals. Maloy assumed she meant anti-gay ideals, but later in the conversation, the Winston-Salem Journal reports, "Brunstetter suddenly made the comment that 'the Caucasian race is diminishing.'" A videographer, Chad Nance, asked Brunstetter on camera if she really said that, and she hedged. "Did you say anything about Caucasians?" he asked. Brunsetter admitted "I probably said the word," and later, "If I did it wasn't anything race related."
Finally, there's even something eerily similar in the tone of the debate. When Romney talks about fears of a "Las Vegas of gay marriage," it conjures images of the morally bankrupt town filled with hookers, gambling, and a reversal of small town "norms." On May 3, 1908, The New York Times reprinted national coverage of something called the "Black and Tan Festivity," which apparently was an event in which black people and white people ate together in New York City. While many local papers in the South were outraged by the events, the Richmond News Leader wasn't too concerned that Yankee immorality would creep down South. "Of course, the whole affair was eminently disgusting, but really it does not concern the South in the least. It is a matter of Northern taste, though taste most offensive to the every instinct of every man and women who as a right to be recognized as white, and not a Caucasian degenerate and pariah."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.