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10/28/2012

CCL of Maine flips Thurgood Marshall quote; repurposes positivity for fear

by Jeremy Hooper

In order to scare supporters of inequality and (more likely) those on the fence about the upcoming vote on marriage, the folks at the Christian Civic League of Maine say this about marriage equality's potential impact:

How can we be so naive to think that a radical public policy change like redefining marriage cannot effect what will go on in our classrooms?

The liberal Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall said it best. Some citizens will obey the law; others will be converted by it.

Faith Matters In Maine [CCL of Maine]

Right. Marshall did say that. Only thing? Of all of the quotes in American history, this is surely one of the most ill-advised group of words than an organization like the Christian Civic League of Maine could choose to make this point. That's because the former Supreme Court justice's quote was all about the power of equality (in Marshall's case, racial equality) triumphing over outdated, dehumanizing discrimination.

Here's an extended version of the Marshall quote:

Marshall2
"Of course law--whether embodied in acts of Congress or judicial decision--is, in some measure, a response to national opinion, and, of course, non-legal, even illegal events, can significantly affect the development of the law. But I submit that the history of the Negro demonstrates the importance of getting rid of hostile laws and seeking the security of new friendly laws…"Provided there is a determination to enforce it, law can change things for the better. There's very little truth in the old refrain that one cannot legislate equality. Laws not only provide concrete benefit, they can even change the hearts of men, some men anyway, for good or evil…The simple fact is that most people will obey the law and some, at least, will be converted by it." [Source]

Such a completely backwards co-opt by the CCL of Maine! Thurgood Marshall was making a point about a form of social change that lessens hostilities toward a certain group. CCL of Maine is heading up a campaign in the Pine Tree State that hopes to lessen equality for a minority population, which will in turn drive home certain hostilities. They are using a quote purposed to make a point about the exciting trend of progress and using it to monger fear about progress' continued push forward. That's bunk.

Hopefully CCL of Maine agrees that Marshall's back-in-the-day predictions provided a hopeful, positive bellwether for a nation that was embroiled in great struggle and debate. I just continue to wonder why they and their like minds believe that our current civil rights debate is the first one in American history where the pro-equality side is less of a positive beacon of light and more a harbinger of forthcoming ills.

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