Cross-posted from Religion Dispatches, the new magazine for intelligent analysis of religion and public life.
Tony Perkins' Family Research Council may be the brightest star in the Christian Right constellation, with deep ties to the unholy trinity of the Republican party, James Dobson's Focus on the Family and even Blackwater USA -- the military contractor whose malfeasance is fast becoming the stuff of legend.
Their email alerts, which I receive daily, can be distressingly cloying, deploying middle-age dad puns and witticisms worthy of the uniquely middle-American craft of crochet-art. Recent subject headings read: "Ligers, Tigons, and Zonkeys, Oh My!" (warning against the dangers of genetic engineering) and "Meet the Robinsons" (warning against the dangers of certain high-ranking, gay Episcopalians getting married).
And, despite connections to white supremacist groups documented by both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Nation's Max Blumenthal, the FRC throws in the occasional right-wing black preacher like Bishop Harry Jackson, nods to a self-serving slice of the Dr. King legacy and, this past week, a tribute to the Rosa Parks of miscegenation, Mildred Loving, who died on May 2nd (pic and blurb below). (Note: the white supremacist connections don't end there by a long shot. One could -- and one still may -- devote a whole post or series of posts to these connections...)
From a recent FRC newsletter:
The FRC devotes a significant portion of its tribute to Loving to caution readers: "Although homosexual activists are fond of portraying the Lovings' victory as a precedent for their cause, the Loving case didn't alter the definition of marriage but affirmed it by allowing any man to marry any woman. The nation is indebted to Mildred for a legacy that so aptly lives up to the couple's shared name."
There are at least two critical things to keep in mind while reading this. First, the embarrassing, then the meat. It's not just "homosexual activists" who see parallels in the Loving case -- it's Mildred herself. On June 12, 2007, the 40th anniversary of the Loving case (a decision handed down just months before MLK was killed in Memphis, by the by), Mildred penned a public statement that included these liberal sentiments (full PDF here; italics mine):
Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights.
Second, and perhaps more important, is the tendency for conservative groups to adjust their views to give the Groundhog Day-like impression that to believe in what is (now) the culturally appropriate view is eminently "conservative" (as in: "traditional," "unchanging," or "objectively true").
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The fact is, these very welcome props to Mildred Loving and her husband Richard are deeply, abidingly, and intrinsically progressive values. They are the values of those whose sense of justice transcends the tunnel vision of time; of those who have both the vision to question received wisdom and the guts to express it. The argument that acceptance of gay marriage might (or would necessarily) lead to people marrying 5 people, dogs, or lizards finally makes sense. It could only be birthed from the conservative mindset which, for many of its proponents, carries the burden of a North-less moral compass when it comes to reassessing that which is codified in the pew, PTA meeting, or backyard BBQ.
A final note, lest I be accused of negativity: it seems that the arc of justice may not only not be terribly long, it may be more of a zig-zag than an arc. Gay marriage remains more of an electoral tactic than a moral issue for the majority of those who have the power to do anything about it legislatively; not much is bound to happen soon. But, according to Wikipedia, the author of the 1966 decision to uphold the ban on interracial marriage, Justice Harry L. Carrico: "was succeeded as Chief Justice by Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr., the first black Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia." But then conservatives and the religious right were probably for that from the start.