Gay Marriage? What Next ... Women Voting?

Roundup: Media's Take

Randy Scholfield, an editorial writer, in the Wichita Eagle(May 12, 2004):

The argument sounds familiar: The writer rails against a dangerous new"right" claimed by a minority. He cites biblical arguments against this"horrible political nightmare," the result of decadent elements in society, a right that if granted will inevitably lead to the breakdown of marriage and the family.

Gay marriage?

Not quite. The year is 1887. The writer is Col. Marshall Murdock, founder of The Wichita Eagle. The issue is women's suffrage.

Col. Murdock and many other moral and civic leaders of the day argued that women's"natural" place was in the home, and that"the designs of the Creator" had sanctioned this.

Good old Col. Murdock was a visionary booster of this city, but history has not been kind to his views on women's right to vote.

And, no, marriages and families didn't crumble when women started to vote in municipal elections that same year.

Today, women's suffrage is seen as just another step in the steady progress and expansion of freedom that is America's essential story.

Col. Murdock was on the wrong side of history on that issue. The arguments that seemed so morally crystal clear and irrefutable to him and others are today seen as a foolish and stubborn clinging to the past, a failure to weigh received truth against a new set of social and moral conditions.

I wonder: Do those who condemn gay marriage with such certitude and passion ever harbor the faintest doubt that they might be -- just might be -- wrong?

It's happened before.

Slavery, interracial marriage

Scripture and tradition were often used to justify slavery, in Colonial America and later in the slaveholding South. As reader Don Lambert recently pointed out to me, more than half of the pro-slavery tracts circulated before the Civil War were written by members of the clergy. One of them, Thomas Stringfellow, cited chapter and verse (Leviticus was a favorite) to justify slavery -- which, he wrote,"has brought within the range of gospel influence, millions of Ham's descendants among ourselves, who but for this institution, would have sunk down to eternal ruin."


Interracial marriage was once viewed with public horror -- and was widely condemned with Scripture and warnings of social collapse. As recently as 1967, anti-miscegenation laws were still enforced in 16 states.

One Virginia judge who upheld that state's law said,"Almighty God created the 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 U.S. Supreme Court didn't buy these and other half-baked arguments. As the justices stated in Loving v. Virginia:"Freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."

One needed a powerful argument indeed, they suggested, to deny what is for many a primary life goal and source of happiness.

Opposed civil rights

Amazingly, more than a few clergymen were on the wrong side of the civil rights movement.

In the 1960s, the Southern Baptist Convention organized boycotts against restaurants and hotels that moved to offer racially integrated services.

No doubt it seemed like the moral thing to do at the time.

In 1995, the Southern Baptists issued an apology for their pro-slavery and anti-civil rights positions of the past.

It gives one pause. Or should.

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More Comments:

Nemesis 27 - 3/23/2005

Err... Did you not notice the rest of the article, beyond the title? If you had, then you might have noticed the ironic twist.

gem farrar - 3/18/2005

gay marraige rules! women rule!

gem farrar - 3/18/2005

People who are gay should be allowed to marry anyone you want. How would you like it if you couldnt marry the person you love? i cant believe your title, its so mean to women. wow.