10/24/2006

Anti-interracial marriage act and homophobia.

"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."
These were the words opined by Judge Leon Bazile in a 1967 case when he sentenced to jail an interracial couple for commiting the "crime" of marrying. Yeah, whites marrying non-whites were made crimes supposedly to retain white "purity". The 1996 movie Mr. & Mrs. Loving is based on this infamous Loving v. Virginia case. Though this case was overturned by the United States Supreme Court, many states continued to carry on anti-interracial marriage acts. In fact, Alabama was the last state to abolish such laws in November 2000. As of now, no state in USA has any more of these miscegenation laws.

Dont we see similar sentiments in denying the right to marry to homosexuals ? The arguments used to deny homosexuals marriage rights all come from fundamentalist religious hardliners, just as it was for interracial marriages. Click here for a list of 1049 benefits which a heterosexual couple can enjoy and which are discriminately denied to homosexual couple.

Sodomy laws in many states in USA were used until very recently to harass gays and lesbians. The 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case made unconstitutional, the criminalization of homosexuality (though it doesn't put it on an equal protection ground). The US military has a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, where a gay or lesbian can be expelled if they disclose their sexual orientation. Quoting www.religioustolerance.org

A soldier can travel to Massachusetts or Canada, marry the same-sex fiancé to whom he or she has made a lifetime commitment, return to base, and be expelled for having sex with his spouse.
India too has its own way of harassing homosexual. The infamous section 377 of Indian Penal Code. It reads
377. Unnatural offences

Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation- Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.

By the way, in victorian times of 1862 when the IPC was written, "order of nature" meant sexual intercourse only to procreate and that too if I am not mistaken only in a missionary position! In that context, using contraception should be a crime. Vikram Seth wrote an open letter recently asking for repealing section 377 and Amartya Sen has released a statement in support of it along with signatures many many other prominent people. The letter by Vikram Seth and the follow up by Amartya Sen can be read at www.openletter377.com . There is also an articel by Vir Sanghvi at Hindustan Times. The arguments used by Indian "culture protectors" or rather "ignorant Indians protecting Victorian culture and morals" to criminalize homosexuality are completely debunked one by one in the Vir Sanghvi article. Here are some excerpts.

Most popular is the paedophilia argument: if homosexuality is legalised, then dirty old men will rape children. This is nonsense. There are several laws already in existence to protect children and to guard against all kinds of rape. And, in any case, most instances of paedophilia in India involve heterosexual sex. If this is an argument for anything, it is an argument for banning heterosexuality.......

Then there is the society-is-not-ready argument. This states that India is a deeply conservative society and harmless law-abiding heterosexuals will be deeply offended by the knowledge that somewhere, two consenting adults are performing homosexual acts in private. I don’t think this even needs a rebuttal......

And, finally, there is the what-does-it-matter argument. The law against homosexuality is not rigorously enforced. We all know homosexuals who are clearly not celibate. And yet, nobody puts them in jail. So, even if there is a Raj-era law on the statute books, why make such a fuss about it?.....
Nice read overall.