June is a great month to celebrate love! With millions of people taking to the streets to celebrate Gay Pride around the world, we can’t think of a better time to reflect on the significance of another celebration that celebrates marriage equality
It’s about the right to choose your partner, and our freedom to do so is thanks to the courage of one amazing couple.
As a young girl, Uchechi watched the (1996 Timothy Hutton and Lela Rochon) movie of their history-making journey, Mr. & Mrs. Loving, over and over. Today, June 12th, 2014, is Loving Day in the USA. It commemorates the story of Mildred and Richard Loving (seriously – we could not have made that name up), a mixed race Virginia couple who in 1967 broke the anti-miscegenation (“race-mixing”) laws in the US when they married in Washington, D.C. that year. They couldn’t have know then that their wedding would guarantee people the right to marry regardless of race, anywhere in the country.
The Lovings date with history began when they drove from Virginia to Washington D.C. one afternoon to be married. Back in Virgina after the legal ceremony, they were arrested a few weeks later, jailed, and sentenced to a year in penitentiary. The judge who tried their case insisted that God had not intended for the races to mix and gave them one option: to leave the state for the next 25 years or face a year’s imprisonment. They chose the former, leaving their home and families behind.
Despairing, Mildred wrote to then-Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, who sent a young lawyer to interview them. Eventually their case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was judged in Loving v. Virginia that she should be able to love her husband and spend the rest of her life with him without the intervention of state or federal law. As the unanimous(!) ruling famously stated:
“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.”
—Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)
Their case set a precedent that we now see echoed in the ruling that struck down the odious and ridiculously-named “Defense of Marriage Act” (almost as sickening a name as the “Racial Integrity Act“) in the same month of 2013.
Without the Lovings, our own interracial love story and wedding would not have been possible in a country that prides itself of being the world leader of freedom and civil rights.
We are eternally grateful to the Lovings. In their name, let all people be free to marry the one they love. As Mildred Loving herself said in 2007 on the 40th Anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision:
“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.”