He recounted New York’s backward history, and how, in the mid-1600s the notoriously anti-Semitic Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant turned down the request of the small Jewish community to build a synagogue. And in the early 1700s, how it was illegal for Catholic priests to enter New York. Such intolerance reflected the abiding sentiments of the time. Jews and Catholics were disfavored, even despised. Now it’s Muslims.
So too did U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker invoke an invidious past to demonstrate how public policy surrounding marriage has historically reflected entrenched social inequality, and how it often took the courts to move things along.
Public sentiment once strongly supported the anti-miscegenation laws that were still in force in 16 states when the Supreme Court struck them down as unconstitutional in 1967. People generally believed that if they allowed marriage across color lines, they would somehow degrade and devalue the institution. Similarly, the American public saw rigid gender roles within marriage as the institution’s essential characteristic. Laws codifying women’s subjugation to their husbands, denying married women their own earnings or the right to own property, were seen as vital reinforcements to the institution of marriage.