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Abstract

Bigots such as the trial judge in Loving have long invoked religion to justify discrimination. We agree with other scholars that neither religion nor artistic freedom justifies letting businesses discriminate. However, we also want to make manifest the tension between the public posture of LGBT-rights litigants and the practices of some LGBT people who discriminate based on race in selecting partners. We argue that some white people’s aversion to dating and forming relationships with people of color is a form of racism, and this sexual racism is inconsistent with the spirit of Loving. Part I provides a review of empirical literature on the prevalence of racial preferences in intimate relationships and shows that racial preferences are particularly pronounced among gay men. Part II supplements this overview with a qualitative exploration of how race informed the intimate experiences of people who sat for interviews as part of our ongoing study, LGBT Relationships and Well-Being. We also offer a theory that may partially explain sexual racism in the LGBT community. Specifically, exposure to mainstream gay culture may teach sexual minority men that race and desire are closely intertwined. In Part III, we propose ideas for further research, including a study that would test our theory.

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