Love Conquers All – Waiting A Decade For The Court’s Decision
In 2013, a federal Judge cited the Loving case in his ruling when striking down Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban. The Loving case has become the foundation in which other courts are striking down bans against same-sex marriage. How did it come about?
Loving — The last name is so appropriate.
In 1957, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter married. They met and lived in Central Point, Virginia, but married in Washington, D.C. because in Virginia, it was illegal to marry a person of another race. Richard, White, and Mildred, “colored,” fell in love at first sight.
At about 4 a.m. one morning, the local police came to their house and arrested them. It wasn’t just the law against interracial marriage that the police was going to arrest the Lovings for violating. They were hoping to catch them in the act of making love, because there was also law against interracial sex.
Mildred showed the police their marriage certificate, but that marriage certificate became evidence for the criminal charge of “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.”
On January 6, 1959, the Loving’s pled guilty. The law they were charged with violating was passed in Virginia in 1924. It was the Act for the Preservation of Racial Integrity. That law set forth that any trace of nonwhite ancestry (the infamous “one drop” rule) defined someone as ineligible to marry anyone defined as white.
The court found the Loving’s guilty and sentenced each to one year in prison, but suspended sentencing for 25 years if they moved out of Virginia.
They moved to Washington, D.C. and could only return to Virginia separately, not together, to see their families. The Loving’s were unhappy in D.C. and in 1964, Mildred wrote to Attorney General Robert Kennedy. He referred her to the ACLU. Two attorneys with no prior experience, but believers in equality and the constitution, went to work.
Their work filing appeals in Virginia were unsuccessful. Virginia Supreme Court Justice Harry L. Carrico wrote an opinion where he used Virginia cases to uphold Virginia’s anti- miscegenation statutes. He modified the Loving’s sentences, and affirmed their criminal convictions.
Attorney Bernard S. Cohen of the ACLU then took the case to the Supreme Court of the United States. Richard and Mildred were married ten years before they could return to Virginia as a married couple without being arrested.
In 1967, in Loving, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the opinion for the unanimous court, holding:
“Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” … fundamental to our very existence and survival…. “the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. . . . 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. . . . 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.”
Listening now to the argument before the Supreme Court in 1967, the same issues were present then that are present now for same-sex marriage. It’s not about sex but rather, equality under the law. It’s about property ownership, and inheritance, and social security beneficiary and survivor’s benefits.
In 2010, the federal district court decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger that overturned California’s Proposition 8 (which restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples), Judge Vaughn R. Walker cited Loving v. Virginia to hold that “the [constitutional] right to marry protects an individual’s choice of marital partner regardless of gender”.
The Loving couple had three children: Donald, Peggy, and Sidney. Richard Loving lived to be 41. In 1975, he was killed when a drunk driver struck his car in Caroline County, Virginia. Mildred Loving lost her right eye in the same accident.
In June 2007, the 40th year anniversary of the issuance of the Supreme Court’s decision in their case, Mildred Loving issued a statement;
“I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry… 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.”
On May 2, 2008, in Milford, Virginia, Mildred Loving died from pneumonia at the age of 68.
In February 2014, Judge Arenda L. Wright, writing for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Bostic v. Rainey, which struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, prefaced her opinion with Mildred Loving’s 2007 statement.
A documentary film titled “The Loving Story” is available on DVD. Portions of it are also available on Youtube.
To recognize the decision in Loving v. Virginia, Loving Day Celebrations happen globally around June 12th of every year. There is a Loving Day grassroots organization whose goals are to:
• Create a common connection between multicultural communities, groups and individuals
• Build multicultural awareness, understanding, acceptance, and identity
• Educate the public about the history of interracial relationships in order to fight prejudice
• Establish a tradition of Loving Day celebrations as a means to achieve these goals
Posted on 04/04/2014, in Bloggers for Peace, Cases, Heroes, research and tagged B4P, B4Peace, interracial marriage, Loving, Loving Day, Mildred, Richard, same-sex marriage, Virginia. Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.