Fifty years ago today, the Supreme Court of the United States abolished all laws that prohibited interracial marriage.
The ruling came eight years after Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, were thrown in jail and later banished from Virginia for being married. Richard was White, and Mildred had described herself as “part negro and part Indian.”
Because of their races, their love and commitment to each other broke the law.
The Lovings went to Washington, D.C. and successfully applied for and received a marriage license, but upon returning to their hometown of Central Point, Va., the couple was faced with a legal battle that would change America.
“This period was a very dangerous period. You didn’t want publicity for them, still living in the South,” says Philip Hirschkop, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who argued the Lovings’ case before the Supreme Court. “President Kennedy was assassinated. Medgar Evers was assassinated. The girls were killed in the church in Alabama. These were very tough, difficult times.”
But fear didn’t stop the nation’s highest court from unanimously ruling in favor of the couple. The decision meant that 16 states would no longer be allowed to prevent citizens from marrying because their races were different.
At the time, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in his opinion that “the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.”
Although interracial marriage may not be a huge deal for many now, some of us who believe in diversity and inclusion still have an uphill battle.
“I have not yet counseled an interracial wedding where someone didn’t have a problem on the bride’s or the groom’s side,” Rev. Kimberly D. Lucas of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. told CBS News. “I think for a lot of people it’s OK if it’s ‘out there’ and it’s other people, but when it comes home and it’s something that forces them to confront their own internal demons and their own prejudices and assumptions, it’s still really hard for people.”
Despite the challenges, supporters of interracial marriage took to social media to express gratitude for the Lovings and solidarity for tolerance.
— Mobilé Vulgaris 🌸 (@jk_ItsTori) June 12, 2017
— Nýx Ἀthenea™ 🇬🇷 💜 (@NyxHijaDelCaos) June 12, 2017
— Elliciamyles (@ElliciaMyles) June 12, 2017
— Rhi is Me 💁🏻 (@rhiandmoi) June 12, 2017
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