BY NATHANIEL BATCHELDER
In 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned as unconstitutional all state laws prohibiting interracial marriage, only 17 states still had such laws, including Oklahoma. Some had been in place for 200 years, all justified with the religious defense: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and placed them on separate continents. … The fact that God separated the races shows that he did not intend for them to mix.”
Now the Supreme Court will rule on state laws prohibiting same-gender marriage, laws also defended on religious grounds. Ten years ago, same-gender marriage was legal only in Massachusetts. Now, only 13 states still claim prohibition of same-gender marriage. Momentum is toward marriage equality.
Conservative Christian churches need not fear. On religious grounds, any house of worship in America may discriminate against any individual or group, as their faith dictates. No minister must marry an interracial couple, interfaith couple, Muslims, Jews, or homosexuals. That religious freedom is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
However, public policy at all levels should protect equal and universal human and civil rights. That’s as American as the Constitution itself, ratified with the Bill of Rights in 1788-89. The Supreme Court should so rule.
– Nathaniel Batchelder is director of the Oklahoma City Peace House