A History Lesson For Ted Cruz: Religious Right Once Opposed Interracial Marriage

In the run-up to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, anti-LGBT activists bristled at comparisons to the Supreme Court’s 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia, insisting that bans on same-sex marriage shouldn’t be compared to anti-miscegenation laws since the latter didn’t have a religious basis.

Of course, while indeed the vast majority of Christians today oppose laws restricting interracial marriages, many Christians at the time used much the same arguments in defense of interracial bans as conservatives do to oppose same-sex marriage today (something one pro-equality pastor demonstrated creatively back in 2012). In fact, one-fifth of white evangelicals and Mississippi and Alabama Republicans still look down upon interracial marriages.

Nonetheless, Ted Cruz said today in an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie that unlike same-sex marriage bans, “there is no religious backing” for interracial marriage bans, and therefore government officials should be allowed to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples if they say issuing such licenses would violate their religious beliefs. He also seemed to suggest that discrimination against interracial couples ended with the Civil War.

Cruz should know better. After all, the Tea Party leader announced his presidential campaign at Liberty University, the school founded by Jerry Falwell, one of the fathers of the modern Religious Right movement, who denounced both desegregation and interracial marriages in religious terms.

And in a 2013 speech for the Heritage Foundation’s “Jesse Helms Lecture Series,” Cruz said that “we need 100 more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate,” a reference to the notorious civil rights opponent who Tim Murphy notes “got his political start by bashing interracial marriage and accusing the spouse of a political opponent of dancing with a black man.”

Helms and Falwell were far from alone, as a majority of Americans opposed interracial marriage at the time the Loving case was decided. Another Religious Right leader, Bob Jones Sr., said in 1960 that “all orthodox, Bible-believing Christians” think that racial integration is wrong. Until they didn’t.

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