Virginia is for lovers

Filed in Charanne , THE BABBIES 6 comments

I’m sure I don’t have to say this, but I will.  There are many, many issues that have gone on in America’s past that are simplified for textbooks or not even spoken about.  I’m not sure how many people actually know about the landmark case brought to court by Mildred (Jeter) and Richard Loving versus the state of Virginia.  Now, I am not about to preach about interracial relationships, but being a product of one, I feel that this case deserves a highlight.

In June of 1958, the Lovings were married in Washington, D.C. and returned to their home in Virginia, where it was illegal for whites to marry blacks. They were arrested in the middle of the night for breaking a law that Mrs. Loving would later tell the Associated Press she did not know existed.  They were indicted and plead guilty resulting in a sentence of one year in jail. Yet the trial judge said if they did not return to the state for 25 years they would not have to spend time in prison. In his opinion he stated

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.

Mildred and Richard moved to DC appealed the judgment on November of 1963 based on the fact that their Fourteenth Amendment had been violated. It took over a year for any action by the court but their motion was denied.  They appealed the case to the highest court in Virginia but the ruling was still not overturned.  The Supreme Court of Appeals (Virginia’s supreme court) agreed with the cited laws that were “broken” by the couple: it was a felony to be married to someone of a different race (punishable by a year, but no more than five years) and interracial couples could not be married in one state and return to Virginia to set up their marital household.

The Supreme Court of the U.S. through the opinion written by Chief Justice Warren overruled the lower courts on June 12, 1967 disagreeing with the abovementioned laws:

These statutes also deprive the Lovings of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 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.

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942). See also Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888). 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 discriminations. 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.

These convictions must be reversed.

It is so ordered.

Thanks to the courage of this ordinary couple, my parents were able to legally marry just 9 years later.
Today, Loving Day is celebrated nationwide on or around June 12.  If you would like more information about racial marriage bans, pick up Phyl Newbeck’s book Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers.

Posted by Charanne   @   28 August 2008 6 comments

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Aug 28, 2008
9:05 PM
#1 Candra :

Thats awesome.
I grew up in VA and lived there all of my life till a few years ago. Id never heard of this case until just a few months ago.

Aug 28, 2008
9:09 PM
#2 Tobi :

I remember studying this case in school and reading up on it. They also did a movie about the Lovings as well. Thanks for sharing this info. as a lot of people have never heard of this case at all.

Aug 28, 2008
10:50 PM
#3 Cherise :

Charanne, I was not aware of this case. Thanks for sharing.

Aug 29, 2008
6:01 AM
#4 Rahael :

I remember learning about this when I moved to VA. Powerful stuff.

Sep 1, 2008
1:54 PM
#5 Tia :

Wow…never knew about this. Thank you for posting!

Sep 2, 2008
6:58 PM
#6 Latasha :

Great post. I have been wonderfully educated.

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