TMLC Files Brief in Marriage Case for Black Pastors


The Thomas More Law Center has filed a brief in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case that struck down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage on behalf of the Coalition of Black Pastors, a group of African-American bigots from my home state. Most of it seems to be an expression of their outrage at being compared to gay people. From a press release they sent out:

Erin Mersino, the principal drafter of the amicus brief, assisted by Lansing attorneys William Wagner and John S. Kane, captured the Pastors’ objections: the comparison drawn by courts and by society that the homosexual push to legalize their marriages is on par with the civil right movement of Black Americans is false; marriage between one man and one women is Biblically based and a part of America’s Judeo-Christian morality and tradition, and the legal precedent used to overturn the MMA, which was approved by over 2.7 million voters, was unsound.

Said Mersino: “It has been an honor working with the coalition of pastors closely to ensure that their unique voice is heard. The coalition was upset with the notion that the voice of 2.7 million Michigan voters could be silenced by the opinion of one federal court judge. The court drew upon legal precedent which rightfully allowed interracial couples to marry, inherently raising similarities between racial equality and same-sex marriage. The coalition has made clear that they believe this comparison is offensive. ”…

Excerpts from the Law Center’s Brief:

*** “Comparing the dilemmas of same-sex couples to the centuries of discrimination faced by Black Americans is a distortion of our country’s cultural and legal history. The disgraces and unspeakable privations in our nation’s history pertaining to the civil rights of Black Americans are unmatched. No other class of individuals, including individuals who are same-sex attracted, have ever been enslaved, or lawfully viewed not as human, but as property. Same-sex attracted individuals have never lawfully been forced to attend different schools, walk on separate public sidewalks, sit at the back of the bus, drink out of separate drinking fountains, denied their right to assemble, or denied their voting rights. Id. The legal history of these disparate classifications, i.e., immutable racial discrimination and same-sex attraction, is incongruent.”…

Pastor James Crowder, president of the Westside Minister Alliance, said, “Judge Friedman is sanctioning the staging of a false story. On stage are many actors who pretend that redefining traditional marriage is as valid as Blacks fighting against the carnage of chattel slavery and the humiliation of Jim Crow. Never have I been so insulted. The curtain must be pulled down on this play of disinformation.”

Congratulations, you did a brilliant job of dispatching that straw man. No one is suggesting or, to my knowledge, has ever suggested that gay people have suffered historically as much as black people have in this country. Nor is there any need to do so. Two situations do not have to be analogous in every possible way in order to be analogous in the ways that are relevant to the dispute in question. And on the subject of marriage equality and non-discrimination law, sexual orientation and race are analogous in all the legally relevant ways.

Indeed, the arguments used against striking down laws against interracial marriage are identical in nearly every way to the arguments now being used against striking down laws banning same-sex marriage. The same religious excuses are offered — “God doesn’t like it!” The same legal arguments are made — “But there’s no discrimination, gay and straight people are both equally free to marry someone of the opposite sex.” There is no coherent, principled way of opposing the use of the Equal Protection Clause to strike down state laws against same-sex marriage without making the exact same arguments that were made against the Loving v Virginia ruling.

And that is all that is required for this analogy to be accurate. The argument does not require that gay people have to have suffered in exactly the same ways that black people have suffered. That their rights are being deprived is all that matters.

Comments

  1. raven says

    Well that is a good sign.

    The Thomas More law center usually loses.

    They must be desperate for something to do. What is a Catholic law center named for a Catholic saint and serial killer doing defending Protestants anyway.

  2. Trebuchet says

    They must be desperate for something to do. What is a Catholic law center named for a Catholic saint and serial killer doing defending Protestants anyway.

    Bigotry knows no borders.

  3. flatlander100 says

    The TMC is not really trying to make a legal point in its brief. It’s trying to make a political one.

  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    The old “Oppression Olympics” tactic is as much of a fallacy and yet as popular as ever. Sigh.

    Good concise debunking here Ed Brayton – thanks.

  5. matty1 says

    No other class of individuals, including individuals who are same-sex attracted, have ever been enslaved, or lawfully viewed not as human, but as property.

    Is this meant to be restricted to the United States because I’m pretty sure if you look wider in space and time there have been slaves of other races. Most slaves in the Roman Empire for instance were probably the same race as their owners.

  6. says

    No one is suggesting or, to my knowledge, has ever suggested that gay people have suffered historically as much as black people have in this country.

    Really? Don’t you remember the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Gay Act?

    And why were the crosses the KKK put up flaming? That’s some Freudian shit right there.

  7. jameshanley says

    They do seem to forget that Japanese-Americans were rounded up and imprisoned em masse, and that we oassed a law called the Chinese Exclusion Act.

    I think these pastors are the type who when you come to them for comfort after your wife leaves you, your kid dies, and you get fired from your job, would say, “you should hear about my day.”

  8. D. C. Sessions says

    They really can’t help themselves, can they?

    Courts all over the country are tossing out their arguments as the legal equivalent of “not even wrong:” failing the Rational Basis Test. What is their reply? Thumping the Bible.

    I really, really need a desk shaped like a giant palm so I can combine the two most appropriate responses: the headdesk and the facepalm.

  9. dingojack says

    Is Thomas More now the (Catholic) patron saint of ‘Bigots sans frontières’?
    Dingo

  10. says

    From the brief:

    “denied their right to assemble”

    This, among other things, is false. Some of the very first gay rights battles in this country were over gay people being able to socialize (i.e. dance, go to a bar) without police harassment. It took a S. Court case (Vallerga v. Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control) to protect LGBT rights to assemble…and even then while we could be in the same space as each other, we weren’t allowed to touch., and the freaken harassment continued.

    Lie better, bigots.

  11. John Pieret says

    No one is suggesting or, to my knowledge, has ever suggested that gay people have suffered historically as much as black people have in this country.

    Maybe as a function of sheer numbers, but not necessarily in terms of suffering per capita. How many gay people have been oppressed just by being shoved into the closet and denied the ability to be who they are? I don’t see any need for gays to concede that they have been less oppressed than any other hated minority.

  12. marcus says

    The “I was treated worser than you, therefore bigotry…”is probably one of the least valid, absolute weirdest, arguments I could possibly imagine.
    It’s not a contest, to deny another historically oppressed group the product of your (albeit limited) success in the fight to end discrimination and bigotry is beyond ironic. It is pathetic.

  13. matty1 says

    Of course there is another population that has been systematically denied the right to vote and been treated as if not property then certainly the extension of another person with no separate legal rights. Who can guess who it is?

  14. steve84 says

    The black churches will never grow beyond considering homosexuality a white man’s disease. It’s just incomprehensible for them that black people could be gay, because they have inextricably linked being black with being Christian (and some particularly crazy sects at that, like the demon-obsessed Pentecostals)

  15. smrnda says

    Well, one could bring up the indigenous population, who were certainly pissed and shat on a good deal.

    I don’t really see why the comparison is so horrible. Antisemitism is bad, but I’m not going to argue I ever had it as bad as Black people in the US, but I don’t see anyone throwing a fit over that statement.

  16. jameshanley says

    “denied their right to assemble”

    Particularly weird, as the gay rights movement is often dated from the Stonewall riots in New York, which were a response to police once again trying to roust people out of a gay bar.

  17. vmanis1 says

    Steve84: I wouldn’t want to single out `black churches’ as particularly homophobic. There are all sorts of black pastors who have been very LGBT-supportive. We have the word of Coretta Scott King that, had he survived, MLK would have been supportive (no matter what some of his assortedly hateful offspring say). Further, there was a meme that black Californians were unduly supportive of Prop 8; this has been completely debunked (I don’t have a citation, but Alvin McEwen, who used to blog at Pam’s House Blend, and now at the Justice For All website at Firedoglake, has exhaustively debunked it).

    As a gay man, I believe in reaching out to all who might see common cause, rather than dividng the world into friends and enemies. That said, I agree that there are people of all races who will never accept me for who I am.

  18. John Pieret says

    I don’t really see why the comparison is so horrible. Antisemitism is bad, but I’m not going to argue I ever had it as bad as Black people in the US, but I don’t see anyone throwing a fit over that statement.

    Well, thank goodness you didn’t live in, say, Poland, in the 1930s-1940s!

    Hatred is hatred. I never ends well.

  19. eamick says

    Is this meant to be restricted to the United States because I’m pretty sure if you look wider in space and time there have been slaves of other races. Most slaves in the Roman Empire for instance were probably the same race as their owners.

    For some definition of race, that’s undoubtedly true. The word “slave” itself comes from the Medieval Latin for Slav; the Slavs were frequently conquered and enslaved during the Middle Ages.

  20. eric says

    @3:

    The TMC is not really trying to make a legal point in its brief. It’s trying to make a political one.

    I agree, and maybe it’s just me but this seems to be getting more common in SSM and evolution/creationism cases. Conservative groups now appear to be hiring lawyers to prepare briefs to basically speak their opinion to the court, rather than as a legal instrument to push forward a case.

    @17:

    The black churches will never grow beyond considering homosexuality a white man’s disease.

    I disagree. In fact IIRC Ed has posted at least one liberal response by a black pastor in Michigan to this group, where the pastor was fully supportive of gay rights (I can’t remember the details – it may have been signed by multiple pastors or just one). So your generalization here is not justified.

  21. Matrim says

    Getting into arguments over who is more oppressed does nothing but serve the privileged majority. It divides folks who otherwise would find common cause in their suffering and injustice, and makes the push for equality and dignity that much harder.

  22. howardhershey says

    As I remember, gays could be arrested and thrown in jail for their behavior in their own homes at one time quite recently. Often for the same types of behavior that straight people could engage in. IOW, their existence was criminalized by the state. And many Christians want to go back to that time. It isn’t slavery, but to claim that gays weren’t treated, by law, as subhuman criminal aberrations is a bit misleading.

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