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The Miscegenation/Same-Sex Marriage Analogy: What Can We Learn from Legal History?

  • Julie Novkov


It has become commonplace among historically inclined legal scholars to look to the history of the United States’ elimination of bans on mixed-race sexual relationships for guidance about the recent controversy over same-sex marriage. This article argues that, while the analogy is helpful, it is not perfect because of the particular historical circumstances of the battle over antimiscegenation laws. Because regulations against interracial marriage were at the heart of defining and perpetuating the political and institutional system of white supremacy, they served a different purpose than the bans on same-sex marriage. The analogy can be pursued, however, to promote a critical consideration of the history of marriage as a heteronormative institution, generating a broader agenda for empowering change. Such a use of history takes the experience of the struggle against the antimiscegenation regime as a cautionary tale rather than a guidepost.



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