In 1858, Lincoln jokes that his opponent, Douglas, seems to have the fear that if the law weren't there to stop them, he might run out and marry a Negro woman. To "great laughter" laughter, Lincoln assures the audience that he is safe from such urges.
Lincoln: I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. [Cheers and laughter.] My understanding is that I can just let her alone.
Looking at the "Party of Lincoln" clamoring to amend the Constitution to prevent gay marriage and phrasing it as "preserving marriage" - one has to worry what the urges and fears of the GOP are - especially if they are so tightly bound to Lincolns ideals (except when in the south).
Will George leave Laura if he has the option to marry James Guckert?
Lincoln's humor was revealing and particularly nasty. While hesitant to extend this to gay marriage, the example is good for showing the insecurities, presumptions and the Phobia in the homophobia behind their policies.
Lincoln sat in front of an audience where his presumptions, fears, and dislikes could be well matched and the "absurdity" of him desiring a Black woman and running off to marry one was instantly understood.
Likewise the quivering fear filled rooms of GOP seem a comfortable enough setting where they can override reality and change the United States Constitution to prevent them from rushing out to marry other men.
Meanwhile a good portion of the United States is holding on to what are supposed to be Republic values - Lincoln's values - that is "let them alone." Don't get married to them. If they decide to marry themselves, it's their lives.
While I think homophobia is sometimes overused to described simple bigotry, Lincoln's obervance of the fear rooted in his opponent or his attempt to manipulate the insecurities of Douglas provides some insight for identifying real fear of homosexuality in he current debate of marriage.
"Protection" of marriage. "Saving" marriage. All fear and security based language.
Personally, seeing two men happy together will have very little impact on my marriage.
If not having a law banning you from marrying the same sex threatens your marriage, you probably should be for gay marriage rights so you can eventually find happiness.
Fourth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas
at Charleston, Illinois
September 18, 1858
MR. LINCOLN'S SPEECH.
know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality
between the negroes and white people. [Great Laughter.] While I had not
proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as
the question was asked me I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes
in saying something in regard to it. I will say then that I am not, nor
ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and
political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am
not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes,
nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white
people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical
difference between the white and black races which I believe will
forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and
political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do
remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior,
and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior
position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not
perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position
the negro should be denied every thing. I do not understand that
because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want
her for a wife. [Cheers and laughter.] My understanding is that I can
just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never
have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it seems to me
quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or
wives of negroes. I will add to this that I have never seen, to my
knowledge, a man, woman or child who was in favor of producing a
perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men.
I recollect of but one distinguished instance that I ever heard of so
frequently as to be entirely satisfied of its correctness-and that is
the case of Judge Douglas's old friend Col. Richard M. Johnson.
[Laughter.] I will also add to the remarks I have made (for I am not
going to enter at large upon this subject,) that I have never had the
least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes if there
was no law to keep them from it, [laughter] but as Judge Douglas and
his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there
were no law to keep them from it, [roars of laughter] I give him the
most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of
this State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes.
[Continued laughter and applause.]