Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Marriage diversity in the USA

The video above is from National Geographic, and features 17 couples from the Washington, DC area in the USA. The video includes same-gender and opposite gender couples, is often funny, and very informative. It’s frankly not the sort of thing I expect from National Geographic, but maybe that’s why it works so well.

They said about it on their site:
In 2015, 17 percent of U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity. That’s roughly a fivefold increase since 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Loving v. Virginia made interracial marriage legal. Changing the law was a start—but it didn’t “necessarily do anything to change people’s minds,” says Syracuse University law professor Kevin Noble Maillard, who writes frequently about intermarriage. Partners of different races or ethnicities are nothing new, he notes: “But it’s very different when there’s public recognition of these relationships and when they become representations of regular families—when they’re the people in the Cheerios commercial.
Of course, Loving v. Virginia more accurately made interracial marriage legal in the entire United States, because there were 33 states in which it was already legal, in the same way that Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) made marriage between people of the same gender legal in all 50 US states, but it was already fully legal in 35 states. Worth noting (for me…) is that interracial marriage was already legal in my native state of Illinois at the time of the Loving decision (and had been since 1874), and it had enacted marriage equality before the Obergefell decision, with its law taking effect on June 1, 2014, more than a year before the ruling.

Interested as I am in the spread of the right to marry, all this also interests me because I’m in an interracial/intercultural marriage, something that many people don’t even realise until they think about it. In New Zealand, marriage across races and cultures is common enough, though older people tell me that decades ago it was frowned on. That doesn’t surprise me, considering that while such marriages have overwhelming support in the USA now, as recently as 1991 only about half of Americans approved.

And that’s the thing about social change and prejudice. As I often say, it’s easy to hate people in the third person, those black people, those gay people, those interracial couples, but it’s much harder in the second person, you my neighbour, you my boss, you my child, and you my best friend. It’s a case of familiarity breeds respect.

Even though times are changing, being part of an interracial or intercultural married couple can be a challenge, especially in the USA, or any other society that isn’t fully accepting of the idea. But the fact that societies are evolving to accept them means that I’m sure eventually people will get over the idea of two people of the same gender being married. But, as I was saying yesterday, we’re not quite there yet.

Read the full April 2018 National Geographic article on intermarriage, “The Many Colors of Matrimony” [may be available to subscribers only].

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