Boston Globe Columnist Invokes Jim Crow To Attack Marriage Equality

Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA

Boston Globe columnist compared anti-gay groups fighting against marriage equality to activists who fought against Jim Crow-era racism, attacking marriage equality supporters for trying to "redefine" marriage.

In a June 18 op-ed, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby touted the upcoming March for Marriage in Washington, DC - an event sponsored by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM). The march is likely to be a largely astroturfed event and will be attended by some of the most extreme anti-gay voices in America.

According to Jacoby, however, the anti-gay activists attending the march should be compared to the civil rights heroes who fought against Jim Crow era discrimination:

It would certainly be easier to make peace with the new order, especially considering the aggressiveness and hostility that many "marriage equality" activists deploy against those who oppose gay marriage. 

Then again, much the same could have been said a century ago to those who insisted -- in the depths of Jim Crow -- that the cause of civil rights and racial fairness was worth fighting for. They too must have heard with regularity that they were on the "wrong side of history." The promise of Reconstruction was long gone. In much of the country, black enfranchisement was a dead letter. The Supreme Court had ruled 7-1 in Plessy v. Ferguson that racial segregation -- "separate but equal" -- was constitutional. The president of the United States was a white supremacist on whose watch black employees were fired from government positions, and public facilities in Washington were segregated.

Honorable voices argued that blacks had no realistic option but to make the best of a bad situation. But there were others who insisted that the lost spirit of abolitionism could be revived, that Jim Crow could be fought and eventually overturned, that "separate but equal" was based on a falsehood and would ultimately prove untenable. They founded the NAACP in 1909, launching a movement that would eventually transform America. [emphasis added]

Jacoby went on to dismiss the idea that marriage equality was a civil rights issue, instead comparing the effort to "redefine" marriage to other doomed "causes and beliefs," including a "worldwide Marxist revolution":

Gay activists see their crusade for same-sex marriage as another civil-rights battle. It's a false analogy. Jim Crow deprived black Americans of rights they were already entitled to -- rights enshrined in the 14th and 15th Amendments, then stolen away after Reconstruction. But gay marriage does not restore lost rights; it redefines "marriage" to mean something wholly unprecedented in human society.

History is littered with causes and beliefs that were thought at one point to be historically unstoppable, from the divine right of kings to worldwide Marxist revolution. In the relative blink of an eye, same-sex marriage has made extraordinary political and psychological gains. It is on a roll, winning hearts and minds as well as court cases. No wonder it seems to so many that history's verdict is in, and same-sex marriage is here to stay.

Maybe it is.

Or maybe a great national debate about the meaning of marriage is not winding down, but just gearing up. Andmaybe those marchers in Washington, with their "simple and beautiful message," will prove to be not bitter-enders who didn't know when to quit, but defenders of a principle that history, eventually, will vindicate. [emphasis added]

Jacoby's column is a failure on multiple levels. It fails to accurately depict the history of the institution of marriage, which has varied dramatically over the years and has at times included same-sex unions. It fails to acknowledge the anti-LGBT extremism that motivates many of the speakers at NOM's march. It fails to offer even a coherent argument explaining why the tide of public opinion might suddenly turn against marriage equality.

But most importantly, it fails the most basic of logic tests. Civil rights activists during Jim Crow were fighting against legal and social prejudice that denied a historically marginalized group access to full rights and protections under the law. Opponents of marriage equality are fighting to prevent a historically marginalized group for accessing a basic civil right. The gulf between those two groups of activists could not be wider, which is why so many civil rights heroes and the NAACP have come out in support of full marriage equality.

This isn't the first time the Globe's Jacoby has used his column to make specious arguments against LGBT equality. In November, he argued that LGBT people didn't need to be protected from employment discrimination because the free market was already fixing the problem. 

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, LGBTQ
Boston Globe
Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
State Media
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.