Interracial Marriage Under Attack: Thinking the Unthinkable

During an interview with reporters last week, Indiana Senator Mike Braun went beyond the usual Republican line that decisions about abortion rights should be left up to the states. The question of interracial marriage, too, he said, should be left to the states to decide.

Braun was responding to a reporter who seemed to be testing how far he would take his states’ rights philosophy: If the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade improperly interfered with individual states’ ability to set their own rules for abortion, as Braun argued, which of the court’s other decisions should be overturned on that basis? Should the court’s unanimous 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginiawhich decreed state laws forbidding interracial marriage unconstitutional, also be overturned?

Braun said, emphatically, “Yes.” States will naturally have differing views on such issues, he continued, adding that “when you want that diversity to shine within our federal system, there are going to be rules, and dates, that are going to be out of sync with maybe what other states would do. That’s the beauty of the system.” He later tried to walk back the statement about Lovingclaiming to have misunderstood the question, an implausible assertion given that the reporter reiterated and rephrased the question to check for understanding, which did not seem to bother Braun at the time.

Interesting, Braun’s comments reflect a broader shift among Republicans and those in the conservative legal movement. Emboldened by their new 6-3 majority on the high court, conservatives again and again have proven willing to challenge rulings seen very recently as firmly settled law. Case in point: Braun also indicated that the Supreme Court’s 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized contraception for married couples, should be overturned, a statement he did not walk back. And he is not alone in that position. Other Republican politicians, including Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn and several candidates in this year’s race for state attorney general in Michigan, have also denounced Griswold. And just last week, during Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s hearings, Texas Senator John Cornyn attacked the court’s 2015 ruling in Obergevel v. Hodgeswhich legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

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