Loving for all
Published Oct 21, 2009 3:32 PM
Mildred Loving, a civil rights pioneer, passed away on May 2, 2008.
She and her spouse, Richard Loving, were the plaintiffs in the landmark legal
case Loving v. Virginia, which challenged Virginia’s Jim Crow
miscegenation laws. In 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided to
strike down not only Virginia’s racist law but to prohibit all states
from barring interracial marriages.
Mildred Loving and Richard Loving, 1967.
Mildred Loving provided this statement to a commemoration of the 40th
anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision, which was held on June 12,
When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, D.C., 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?
Arrested in the middle of the night
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 we 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 [American Civil Liberties Union] 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 [in Virginia] 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 civil rights.
Freedom to marry for all
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.
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