Richard Loving, a white man, was very much in love with Mildred, a woman of African-American and Native-American descent and in June of 1958 they traveled to Washington, DC, where interracial marriage was legal, and got married. But when the happy couple returned to their home state of Virginia, they were arrested and sentenced to one year in jail for violation of the state’s Racial Integrity Act. The judge suspended the sentence but only on the condition that they leave the state and not return to Virginia together for 25 years. The judge also stated in an opinion: “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 marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
After years of living outside the state, the couple sought the aid of a young attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) named Bernard Cohen. Their efforts to overturn the verdict against Richard and Mildred would lead to the historic Loving v. Virginia trial, which found by unanimous decision that Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 was unconstitutional and ended all race-based marriage bans in America, prompting the legalization of interracial marriage.
Sadly, a federal ban against same-sex marriages continues to be the law of the land in the United States to this very day. And if the Virginia judge’s original opinion – that decreed God himself was against interracial marriages – sounds a bit familiar, that may be because our modern day politicians use nearly the same terminology to defend their positions against marriage equality for gay and lesbian Americans. President Barack Obama’s position is sadly no exception. “I believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman,” he has said. “For me, as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God is in the mix.”
The documentary The Loving Story will air February 14 on HBO. (via Huffington Post)