The Supreme Court’s gradual embrace of marriage equality is “a slow-motion Dred Scott for the twenty-first century” according to the conservative National Review. Dred Scott was a Supreme Court decision from shortly before the Civil War, which justified slavery on the grounds that people of African descent “had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order” who are “so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Marriage equality, by contrast, is the idea that people should be able to marry the person that they love.
The comparison between gay rights and a legacy of human bondage that reduced millions of innocents into mere property was made by Matthew J. Franck, a political scientist with the anti-gay Witherspoon Institute and a regular contributor to the National Review. Witherspoon helped fund a discredited study on parenting by gay and straight couples that opponents of gay rights used in an attempt to convince convince courts to rule against marriage equality. Although this study was published in a scholarly journal, the journal conducted an internal audit reevaluating the study after it became the subject of widespread criticism. That audit eventually concluded that the study was “bullshit.”
Franck’s suggestion that treating all couples with equal dignity is similar to forcing human beings into a life where their spouse or children can be sold away at the whim of a white master came as part of a larger piece about the Supreme Court’s decision not to consider several marriage equality cases. After labeling legal arguments for equality “rhetorical twaddle,” Franck concludes with an appeal to the Republican Party’s history:
The Republican Party was founded in the 1850s with its first platform (in the 1856 presidential election) denouncing slavery and polygamy, both of which the party wanted the federal government to outlaw where it had power to do so, in the territories. These were the “twin relics of barbarism.” One year later, after Dred Scott, the Republican Party added the defense of republican government against judicial tyranny to its portfolio of fundamental principles. The GOP was founded as a party standing for human liberty, the sanctity of the family, and a free self-governing people. As we re-enact a slow-motion Dred Scott for the twenty-first century, it remains to be seen whether any political party in America will continue to stand for those principles.
By “human liberty” and “the sanctity of the family,” of course, Franck appears to mean that families should be denied the opportunity to unite under a marriage.
In a subsequent post, Franck expands on his comparison between the coming together of two people who love one another and slavery. Here’s a taste:
Like Dred Scott, decisions for same-sex marriage rely on a false anthropology that drives a political decision made by judges. In Dred Scott it was the false idea that some human beings can own other human beings, and that a democratic people cannot say otherwise. In the same-sex marriage rulings it is the false idea that men can marry men, and women can marry women, and that democratic peoples cannot say otherwise.
Franck also claims in his new post that “[l]ike Dred Scott, same-sex marriage rulings . . . amount to a comprehensive threat to republican government.”