“Separate But Equal”, Echoes of Farce

Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

In the latest edition of BBC Question Time, the “separate but equal” argument against the legalisation of same-sex marriage was advanced in full force – or rather by two very loud members of the audience. Civil marriage is not necessary, we’re told; what civil partnerships offer is, in practice, virtually identical.

Remember Rosa Parks? Ask yourself – why did she take the seat of the white man when the seats at the back of the bus were just as comfortable?

“Separate but equal”, after all, matured in an altogether different age. Remember how the US Supreme Court articulated its decision on Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896:

We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it… The argument also assumes that social prejudice may be overcome by legislation, and that equal rights cannot be secured except by an enforced commingling of the two races… If the civil and political rights of both races be equal, one cannot be inferior to the other civilly or politically. If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.

Worrying – but rhetorically useful – parallels.


One Comment on ““Separate But Equal”, Echoes of Farce”

  1. walyndrist says:

    I got dragged here from another post by my overwhelming desire to discover a blogger’s political views rather than their views on ‘The Road’, which is why I’m commenting on a rather ancient post simply to point out that what you’re missing is that the seat at the back, while it may have been “as comfortable”, was certainly not as convenient. Separate but equal was not truly equal. However, your attempt to draw parallels to the modern gay marriage situation fails in that a civil union or equivalent would, in the eyes of the government, carry the same weight as a marriage but without the religious auspices, which would, I assume, be desirable for same-sex couples, since Christianity is practically universally responsible for the homophobia in the world today. Hmmmm….the Center Left looks interesting…

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