The Supreme Court is often maligned, but the case could be made that the nation’s highest court embodies what is best about America.
Young people may find this hard to believe, but 48 years ago it was illegal, in many states (including Georgia), for blacks and whites to marry or even live together. But, on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court overturned all “anti-miscegenation laws” in the U.S.
Curiously, justices used the words of a slave-owning white plantation owner — the ‘Father of the Constitution’ — to make their ruling.
The Supreme Court decision probably didn’t sit well with the Virginia judge who, in 1958, sentenced Mildred and Richard Loving to a year in prison for their forbidden marriage.
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. … The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix,” said racist Judge Leon M. Bazile, who offered to suspend the sentence if the couple left Virginia for 25 years.
Instead of prison, they chose to live in nearby Washington, D.C., but a few years later were arrested again in Virginia for traveling in the same car.
Times have changed. Or have they?
In many ways, 1967’s “Loving v. Virginia” decision presages the upcoming Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, which may strike down all state laws banning that particular form of love.
When that happens, politicians will claim the court is being an “activist judiciary” or somehow diminishing the role of Congress.
Recently, President Obama attempted to lecture the court on a pending Obamacare decision that might not go his way.
“Ultimately, I am confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,” said Obama.
Obama, a legal scholar at one point, surely knows the primary function of the non-elected Supreme Court is to make decisions based on their interpretation of the Constitution. If a law is unconstitutional but passed by a “strong majority” of Congress and popular with the public — it doesn’t matter — the Supreme Court is obligated to strike it down.
BTW, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed the House in 2010 by a 219-212 vote, which I would not characterize as a “strong majority.”
A recent poll says 55 percent of Americans don’t approve of Obamacare, but 63 percent believe gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry.
Should the Supreme Court look at polls before making decisions?
Of course not.
In 1958, Mildred and Richard Loving didn’t know it was illegal for a white man and black woman to get married in Virginia.