Posts Tagged ‘miscegenation’
Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving grew up together as friends in Caroline County Virginia. Friendship turned to love and the couple decided to marry. This would be another love story but for the fact Mildred was black (“colored” according to Virginia) and Richard was white. The year was 1958, and interracial marriage was forbidden by the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 in Virginia. Not only did Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law ban interracial marriage, but it also banned interracial couples from marrying in other states and then returning to Virginia.
Mildred and Richard Loving were married in June 1958 in Washington, D.C. where interracial marriage was legal. They returned home to Caroline County and in little time were arrested. Their marriage certificate from the District of Columbia was used as evidence against them. Seven months later in January 1959 the Lovings pleaded guilty to violating the Racial Integrity Act. In return, they avoided jail by agreeing not to return to Virginia for 25 years.
The Lovings lived for five years in Washington, DC with their three children all the while longing to be closer to family in Virginia. As the Civil Rights Act was about to be passed in 1964, Mildred wrote Attorney General Robert Kennedy imploring his help. He referred the Loving case to the ACLU where Bernard S. Cohen willingly signed on to argue it. Nine years later on June 12, 1967, the landmark Loving v. Virginia decision vindicated the Lovings and overturned Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act when Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the majority opinion: “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.” With the ruling, the Lovings were free to return to Caroline County where they lived quietly together until Richard’s death in 1975.
Loving Day reminds us of that time when two people could not marry simply because of the color of their skin. Its impact continues to be felt today. In a short time, the United States Supreme Court will render its decision on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges. Perhaps history will be made again.
Mildred and Richard Loving did not set out to be trailblazers for marriage rights. They were just a couple in love who wanted to live freely as a family. Loving v. Virginia stands as the authority for today’s marriage equality battle.