In June of 1958, in the District of Columbia, Mildred Loving, a woman of African and Native American descent, married Richard Loving, a Caucasian. On their return to their home in Virginia, they were charged under Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, which banned marriages between any white person and any non-white person. The Lovings pled guilty and were convicted and sentenced to one year in prison, with the sentence suspended for 25 years on condition that the couple leave the state of Virginia.

In 1964, while they were living in the District of Colombia, the Civil Liberties Union filed a motion on their behalf on the grounds that the Virginia statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Three years later, on June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the couple’s conviction; unanimously ruling that Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court concluded that anti-miscegenation laws were racist and had been enacted to perpetuate white supremacy. The Loving v. Virginia case became the legal precedent used to eradicate all laws against interracial marriages in the United States.

On June 12, 2007 Mildred Loving issued a public statement:

“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. 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.”

Mildred died on May 2, 2008. I have little doubt that she would be terribly disappointed to learn that six months after her death, voters in California, Arizona and Florida voted to deny equal rights to gay couples who choose to marry. I suspect that Mildred would be even more disappointed to learn that African Americans in California voted by a 70-30 margin, according to CNN exit polls, to support the proposition outlawing gay marriage.

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Comment by Dana King on November 13, 2008 at 3:22am
I was not aware of the Loving case, only that miscegenation laws were now unconstitutional. It's a perfect analogy, and how appropriate that a couple named Loving was the cornerstone of the Supreme Court decision.

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