Check out the January/February 2012 issue of Humanities magazine for a terrific article about the historic U.S. Supreme Court case that gave interracial couples the legal right to marry in the United States. At the heart of the case is a couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, whose uncompromising love survived despite a hostile environment, multiple arrests for living together as husband and wife, and an eventual 25-year banishment decree from their home state of Virginia. According to Humanities:
The Lovings had broken the state’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act, a law that went to nearly insane lengths to keep anyone with even one drop of black blood from mixing with a white person.
It’s hard not to notice the striking similarity between the Racial Integrity Act, struck down by Loving v. Virginia in 1967, and the Defense of Marriage Act. Both rely on morally weighted language (“integrity” and “defense”), trying to disguise what the laws really are: one racist and one homophobic, both profoundly discriminatory.
Another detail that bears mentioning as the world discusses whether or not loving couples should have the legal right to marry: The Lovings were not exactly activists looking to rattle the nation, just everyday people trying to go about their everyday life:
Richard Loving refused to attend the Supreme Court hearing—he was a private man, averse to publicity. He was not a rabble-rouser, nor was his wife, who opted to stay behind with him awaiting the verdict that would transform their life—one way or the other. But Richard, the man of few words, did have something he wanted his lawyer to convey to the nine justices deciding his fate: “Tell the court I love my wife.”
Note: See the new HBO documentary, The Loving Story, about the Loving v. Virginia case.
Image by Grey Villet, Courtesy HBO.
Danielle Magnuson is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter @DnlMag.