Andrea and Sylvester: Challenging Marriage Taboos and the Road to a Same Sex Marriage Decision

Andrea and Sylvester: Challenging Marriage Taboos and the Road to a Same Sex Marriage Decision

Andrea and Sylvester: Challenging Marriage Taboos and the Road to a Same Sex Marriage Decision

Andrea and Sylvester: Challenging Marriage Taboos and the Road to a Same Sex Marriage Decision

Synopsis

In 1941 a young couple met and fell in love; but one of them was considered Black while the other was considered White. Laws against intermarriage between races had been upheld by every court in the United States since Reconstruction, after the Civil War.Andrea and Sylvester - a Mexican-American woman and an African-American man - challenged these laws and won, and their success inspired changes that ended that taboo. When same-sex marriage became a pressing issue, their case was the precedent that first persuaded the courts to allow it. Thus Andrea and Sylvester can be credited with successfully challenging a second marriage taboo.Dodge sets the scene for their personal drama and traces how their example helped establish the momentum toward more liberal marriage laws throughout the United States, culminating with the 2015 Supreme Court's decision to allow same-sex marriage.

Excerpt

In 1941 a young couple met and fell in love. The story could have been simple but the woman, Andrea Perez, was Mexican-American and the man, Sylvester Davis Jr., was African-American. They lived in Los Angeles, a city that was unfriendly to both, at a time when it led California as the center of America’s eugenics movement, further enhancing the prejudice they faced. Mixed-race marriages were illegal in most of the United States and California had a peculiar law that considered theirs a marriage between Black and White. Across the country there was near unanimous opposition to mixed-race marriages. Laws against miscegenation that prevented intermarriage between races had never been successfully challenged in court at any level since Reconstruction following the Civil War. Their love was strong and they sought to overcome the wellentrenched taboo that was commonly regarded as an assumption. All indications were they had no chance, but it was an uncanny combination of the coming together of the right people at the right time. They succeeded and this is the story of how that happened. Their story is important as it began a movement. Theirs was a state court issue but it was followed by other states reconsidering their laws on intermarriage. When it finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court the rejection of the taboo inaugurated by Andrea and Sylvester culminated in the end of bans on interracial marriages that dated back to Colonial times. Breaking that logjam led to one of the groundbreaking decisions for equality was something the couple was aware of but distanced themselves from in an effort to live a “normal” American family life. Though Andrea and Sylvester were never interested in leading a cause or becoming involved in the civil rights movement, their decision to take on the law had considerable consequences that . . .
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