Monday, April 06, 2009

Nanci Griffith Has A New Song You Should Hear-- Even If You're Not A Music Fan


Nanci Griffith has a new album coming out in early June, The Loving Kind. I'll try to remind you about it when Rounder releases it. The record is spectacular but today I just want to say a few words about the title track. It's a really powerful song about a couple in Virginia, Richard and Mildred Loving. Despite Virginia's anti-miscengenation law which prevented mixed-race marriages-- something that more the half the states in the country had when I was growing up-- the young couple got married in June, 1958 in Washington, DC. She was 19 and he was 25. The police broke into their home and arrested them in bed. They were found guilty and sentenced to prison sentences which were suspended on condition of them leaving Virginia. At the time of the sentencing (in 1959), Judge Leon Bazile read this excuse for bigotry from the 1700s:
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

Judge Bazile, or any like-minded Republican today would have to find a different excuse for denying gay people the right to marry. Last week we saw the Iowa Supreme Court strike down that state's anti-gay marriage law. Obsessed and hysterical, the far right will fight it-- just the way they fought against interracial marriages.

In 1964 the Supreme Court of the United States didn't have any hack rightist judges like Scalia or Thomas or Alito or Roberts. The court unanimously overturned the convictions and declared that Virginia's and other states' laws denying equality for people to marry regardless of race were unconstitutional. It changed the law for every single state in the South (although Alabama kept their own anti-miscegenation laws on the books until... 2000!) From the decision:

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

Mildred Loving died on May 2, 2008. A year before she died, on the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that made her marriage legal, she issued a public statement that has inspired many gay people fighting for their rights to marry:
Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about.

UPDATE Here's Nanci performing an acoustic version of "The Loving Kind" for the BBC:

Electing people like Dan Gelber in Florida-- he's running for the U.S. Senate seat being abandoned by homophobic Republican Mel Martinez-- will help make marriage equality a reality. Watch this short clip of him explaining where he stands on the issue-- from a very personal perspective.

UPDATE: What Is It With States Starting With V?

If anyone in Vermont knows Republican Governor Jim Douglas, could they forward him a copy of Nanci's song? Douglas just vetoed a marriage equality bill that passed in both houses of the Vermont legislature. Tomorrow the Senate, which passed the bill 26-4 will override and then the House will try to get to the 2/3 majority needed. Conservatives are too busy preventing loving couples from getting married to take care of "religious" predators raping their own children.

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At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A city councilman in Napa, Ca has stirred up quite a hornets nest on the gay marriage issue.

At 8:27 AM, Anonymous Lee said...

thanks Howie,wish I could include it in the cd to play at Weds seder.This year it's the Buddhist Haggadah

and our seder plate will include an orange (honors the role of women and/or gays and lesbians in Jewish life)

At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Bil said...

Nice, Thanks Howie.

At 8:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this! Why this very day I was going down my catalog for easy guitar tracks to play on my new Martin, and listened to Nanci's beautiful song "Love at the Five and Dime"--which still brings tears to my eyes--I heard it first during the time when I really fell in love and had an "illegal" and impromptu gay marriage--that may have not fallen apart if we had legal ties. What a trip down memory lane. I looked at an update on Nanci and found out about this new album and how she has been through both breast and thyroid cancer--but this song was like a shot in the arm. I'm glad to see that she's surviving and returning to her old Texas country sound and messages of love and social justice...her best songs, I think--"Me and My Omie," "It's a Hard Life," and the heartbreaking "Daddy Said' about Vietnam. (And all the songs about being homesick for Texas. I am so damn homesick for Houston, for Anderson Fair--"I could use a little spin on a red brick floor...a crazy old bar where Tim locks the door") wouldn't believe all the great artists who have played (and still play) on that little stage where cockroaches occasionally crawl across...a venue that survived on duct tape and kindness, I think. I can't wait for this CD. Here's to true love, ya'll--

At 7:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gay marriage is an attempt at mainstreaming and giving sanction to an evolutionary dead end lifestyle choice.

At 5:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have referred to your post and linked to it in my own blog at:

At 11:14 AM, Blogger Chris and Frank said...

I worked with Nancy during my days at MCA recordsI found her to be a wonderful person who songs always offer the most intimate insight. She is a really great artist and I hope this song getting lots of press and she sells lots of copy's of her album.


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