Happy Loving Day

Today is Loving Day, an unofficial holiday that marks the 43rd anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in the case of Loving vs. Virginia, effectively clearing the way for interracial marriages in all fifty states. When the court ruled on the case, sixteen states still had laws on the books prohibiting anti-miscegenation laws that made it illegal for people from different races to marry, have sex or cohabitate. Between the years of 1913 and 1948, thirty states recognized these laws, effectively banning interracial relationships and making them punishable by prison. All of this came to an end with the marriage of Richard and Mildred Loving.

Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter were married in Virginia in 1958, where the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 made all relationships between whites and non-whites illegal. The Lovings were charged with violating the law, sentenced to one year and prison with the charges suspended on the condition they leave the state of Virginia. The ACLU filed a claim on behalf of the Lovings, which led to a series of court cases, leading all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in favor of the Lovings. Richard and Mildred had three children, but in 1975 Richard was tragically killed by a drunk driver. He was 41 at the time. Mildred passed away in 2008 at the age of 68.

It is hard for some people to believe that only 43 years ago, it was still illegal in 16 states for couples of different races to be married. I have never lost sight of that, and when arguing for legal protection of same sex marriages/relationships, I remind people that there was a time when people argued that relationships between whites and non-whites were acts against God. But the reality is that even though I’m not exactly a strong believer in love, I do believe in the right to love anyone we choose (provided they are of legal and consenting age). Richard and Mildred Loving are just one of many brave couples that defied the laws and conventional thinking of the times because they were in love. Nothing should come between two people who love each other, especially not some laws that are grounded in ignorance, fear and a misplaced sense of superiority.

We live in a time where so much is taken for granted, and so many lessons of the past have been forgotten, that few people truly understand who we are, where we came from, or what we went through. So many bi-racial/multi-racial children don’t fully understand the dynamics that now allow them to exist as something more than evidence of committed crimes. They don’t understand the struggles their parents and grandparents went through in carving out a place for them in this society. And that is what makes Loving Day so important, it is a reminder and acknowledgment of where we were, where we’ve gone, and where we still have yet to go.

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