Rethinking My Youth

Vir­ginia up until yes­ter­day had a state law ban­ning sex between unmar­ried indi­vid­u­als.

I thought I must of heard wrong a bit of local news on NPR yes­ter­day, but no, it was indeed cor­rect: Vir­ginia up until yes­ter­day had a state law ban­ning sex between unmar­ried indi­vid­u­als.

The Wash­ing­ton Post reports that the state Supreme Court struck down an ear­ly 19th Cen­tu­ry law ban­ning for­ni­ca­tion between unmar­ried per­sons. While rarely enforced, the law came into ques­tion under a defense move in a civ­il case regard­ing the trans­fer of an STD between two unmar­ried indi­vid­u­als dur­ing a two-year rela­tion­ship. Appar­ent­ly, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law in 2003, the good folks at the VA Supreme Court thought bet­ter of this Com­mon­wealth’s both anti­quat­ed and quite stu­pid law.

Now, I must admit that I nev­er had any idea this law exist­ed. Fur­ther, as I men­tioned pre­vi­ous­ly, I thought I heard it right on NPR yes­ter­day and tried to do some research on the inter­net last night. After about 10 min­utes of using search engines and news­pa­per sites, I just gave up (No, that’s not try­ing very hard, I know). How­ev­er, igno­rance of the law is no defense. The real ques­tion for me is, would I have done any­thing any dif­fer­ent­ly know­ing what I know now? (Mom, if you’re read­ing this, I stop right about here) The answer is, I’d prob­a­bly only have done it more. Civ­il dis­obe­di­ence should always be this fun.

Of course, The Com­mon­wealth of Vir­ginia is the same state that, up until the late 60’s, had a law ban­ning inter­ra­cial mar­riages. So, not only would my for­mer life have been a series of enjoy­able mis­de­meanors, my mar­ried life would have been ille­gal, since my wife is half-Kore­an. Which half, you ask? (Sor­ry, I could­n’t resist) Vir­gini­a’s law was par­tic­u­lar­ly nasty in the pan­theon of racist laws, in that it was one that laid out the var­i­ous per­mis­si­ble ratios of her­itage (1/16th negro, 1/4th Amer­i­can indi­an, etc.) that one could still be con­sid­ered white. I’m pret­ty sure 1/2 Asian was­n’t in there, and chances are no one would have much cared, but here’s what the tri­al judge had to say upon exil­ing the cou­ple in ques­tion from Vir­ginia:

Almighty God cre­at­ed the races white, black, yel­low, malay and red, and he placed them on sep­a­rate con­ti­nents. And but for the inter­fer­ence with his arrange­ment there would be no cause for such mar­riages. The fact that he sep­a­rat­ed the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

This sounds like all the same ratio­nal for ban­ning homo­sex­u­al mar­riages: that because God obvi­ous­ly does­n’t want them, than nei­ther should we. I’m not so sure that there’s a whole lot of evi­dence that sug­gests God does­n’t want two lov­ing peo­ple to have a for­mal com­mit­ment. Fur­ther, I think that at some point in my life­time, we’ll look back at today’s anti-gay-mar­riage laws and feel the same way about ban­ning inter­ra­cial mar­riage and unmar­ried sex: why did we ever have laws insti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing hate and crim­i­nal­iz­ing love?