Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Loving Mildred Loving...

Mildred Loving died on May 2. Along with her husband, Richard, Mrs. Loving was at the center of the historic 1967 Supreme Court decision which finally struck down laws that forbid inter-racial marriage, what was then known as "miscegenation." The Lovings are heroes of recent American history.

Thanks, Mildred and Richard. Thank you...

I hope you will take a moment and read Mildred's statement in 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the Loving decision:
Loving for All

By Mildred Loving

Prepared for Delivery on June 12, 2007,
The 40th Anniversary of the Loving vs. Virginia Announcement

When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married.

We didn’t get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn’t allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom.

When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is?

Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the “crime” of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.

We left, and got a lawyer. Richard and I had to fight, but still were not fighting for a cause. We were fighting for our love.

Though it turned out we had to fight, happily Richard and I didn’t have to fight alone. Thanks to groups like the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, and so many good people around the country willing to speak up, we took our case for the freedom to marry all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, “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,” a “basic civil right.”

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

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.

Here is an excerpt from the Supreme Court decision:
Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... 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. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. 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...

The Supreme Court concluded that anti-miscegenation laws were racist and had been enacted to perpetuate white supremacy:
There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.

Despite this Supreme Court ruling, such laws rested unenforced in several states until 2000 when Alabama became the last state to remove its law against mixed-race marriage.

Here is a very good NPR story on the 40th anniversary of the Loving decision (there are also several other related stories that are linked to this audio story; check 'em out!): "Loving Decision: 40 Years of Legal Interracial Unions"

Here is a great 3 minute documentary, featuring Julian Bond - the President of the NAACP - and his wife, on the 40th anniversary of the Loving V. Virginia decision. Please check it out:

And here is my former congressional representative in Madison, Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin, standing in congress to commemorate Loving v. Virginia. Tammy is an amazing woman, a fantastic representative and the first and only openly gay woman in congress. She is a pioneer and another courageous hero in our recent history. Check out what she has to say:

This decision has special meaning to Drea and I...

So, again, thank you Mildred and Richard Loving for paving the way for so many of us. You deserve your rightful place alongside Rosa Parks and all the other heroes of the modern civil rights movement...


  1. Richard Perry Loving passed away on June 29, 1975 and his wife Mildred later joined him on May 2, 2008. They are with the Lord. Gone but definitely not forgotten! As a result, interracial marriages is on the rise, and therefore, all it matters is character. God creates all races and is equal. They should treat them with respect. Thank you Lovings!

  2. Amen.

    I will underscore that while Mildred stopped giving interviews a while back, her statement on the 40th anniversary strongly supported marriage rights for gays and lesbians. I salute her for that courage and support full freedom and equality for everyone who shares love and mutuality, regardless of sexuality, gender, etc. As long as marriage is a legal union with various benefits attached, all should have the option. There is still work to be done...

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