Thursday, June 8, 2006

The Federal Marriage Amendment and the New 'One Drop of Blood' Rule

Intersex messes with the opponents of gay marriage.

As anti-miscegenation laws took hold in an effort to stop blacks and whites from marrying, by necessity courts had to start deciding who counted as white or black. The standard that ultimately emerged – namely the “one drop of blood” rule of blackness – dictated that any trace of black heritage, no matter how remote or invisible, made you black.

Although a legal necessity, the rule amounted to a biological and social absurdity, one that thrust upon many people an identity that made no sense in terms of their bodily appearances and their lives. For example, Susie Phipps grew up, lived, and married twice as a white woman, but was informed in 1983 by the Louisiana courts (in response to a passport application dispute) that she was really “colored” because she had had one black ancestor six generations back.

As conservatives continue to push the Federal Marriage Amendment and similar state-level same-sex marriage prohibitions, there are signs that a new one drop of blood rule is about to emerge – but this time it will be about sex instead of race. Soon, the way this sort of legislation is going, against their will some men will legally become women, and vice versa. It’s already happening in Texas.

Let me back up a bit.