In a week of jaw-dropping moments of racism in Washington, D.C., one man from Indiana managed to climb to the top of the list. On Tuesday, Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) said Loving v. Virginia, a Supreme Court decision legalizing interracial marriage in 1967, was wrongly decided.
It’s not as if Braun just blurted out the racist opinion that anti-miscegenation laws are good—it came as part of a longer conversation where Braun repeatedly told The Times of Northwest Indiana reporter Dan Carden that state governments should be the makers of policy with almost no exceptions.
Braun was asked if he would “consider that judicial activism” if the Supreme Court struck down the right to abortion, and he said yes. “I think this would be bringing it back to a neutral point to where that issue should have never been federalized,” he said.
Would that logic apply to Loving on interracial marriages, then? Braun, again, said yes. “When it comes to issues, you can’t have it both ways. When you want that diversity to shine within our federal system, there are going to be rules, and proceedings, that are going to be out of sync with maybe what other states would do. That’s the beauty of the system. And that’s where the differences among points of view in our 50 states ought to express themselves.”
Again, the reporter asked Braun: “So you would be okay with the Supreme Court leaving the question of interracial marriage to the states?”
“Yes, I think that that’s something that if you’re not wanting the Supreme Court to weigh in on issues like that, you’re not going to be able to have your cake and eat it too,” Braun said, with a chuckle. “I think that’s hypocritical.”
That is the exact thinking that led to Loving and created a need for a federal intervention. In 1958, Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were living as residents of Virginia, which had a law on the books banning interracial marriages at the time. The pair went to Washington, D.C., to be married, because it was legal there, and returned to their home in Virginia. The Lovings were then arrested, put on trial, found guilty, and sentenced to a year in jail. The judge agreed to suspend the sentence if the couple would leave the state for 25 years. After five years away from their families, the pair decided to challenge their sentence. “They just were in love with one another and wanted the right to live together as husband and wife in Virginia, without any interference from officialdom,” Bernard Cohen, an attorney who was volunteering at the ACLU, told NPR.
In the same interview, Braun applied his regressive thinking to birth control for married couples. Asked about the Supreme Court case upholding the right to use contraception, Griswold v. Connecticut, he said: “Well you can list a whole host of issues. When it comes down to whatever they are, I’m going to say, they’re not going to all make you happy within a given state. But that we’re better off having states manifest their points of view rather than homogenizing it across the country as Roe v. Wade did.”
Braun has clearly thought long and hard about the implications of returning all decisions in the states. He said it’s “hypocritical” to ask the Supreme Court to only weigh on in certain issues if you believe in returning decisions to state governments.
The senator, probably after a stern talking to by GOP leaders who don’t like to lose elections, has since done a terrible job trying to walk back his obviously well-held beliefs that states should have the right to ban interracial marriage. “Earlier during a virtual press conference I misunderstood a line of questioning that ended up being about interracial marriage, let me be clear on that issue — there is no question the Constitution prohibits discrimination of any kind based on race, that is not something that is even up for debate, and I condemn racism in any form, at all levels and by any states, entities, or individuals,” he said in a statement to HuffPost.
Of course, Braun isn’t the only GOP senator to fully unmask their anti-democratic beliefs this week. On Sunday, Tennessee cuckoo Sen. Marsha Blackburn released a bizarre video in which she denounced Griswold. And Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) railed against Obergefell v. Hodges, a 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, while he was supposed to be questioning Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Republican leaders are now overtly saying what abortion advocates have been saying for decades: This country’s conservative minority is coming for every individual right they can. They’re picking away at who has the right to vote, who has the right to control their own body, who has the right to a quality education, who has the right to marry, who has the right to be free from surveillance. I don’t understand how Braun misunderstood something that was asked twice and very clearly. Braun believes what he said, even if it’s unpopular to say. And he’s far from alone in his party.