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« Welcome to the United States of Amnesia and State of Denial | Main | In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan »

Loving Day

By Janet Morrison
June 3, 2009

Ever heard of Loving v. Virginia (1967)?

Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving grew up in Caroline County, Virginia. In 1958, they decided to get married. One slight problem. Mildred was Black and Richard was White. State law forbid their marriage, so they went to Washington, D.C. where it was legal to marry interracially.

However, after they married and moved back to Virginia, they were awakened one night by the police and subsequently taken to jail...for the crime of being married.

Though the judge sentenced them to jail for 1-3 years, he agreed to suspend the sentence if they would leave the state of Virginia for 25 years. The Lovings moved to Washington D.C. instead of face imprisonment.

After much hardship of being separated from family and facing racist taunting, they sent a request to Robert F. Kennedy, the Attorney General. Their case was taken up; however, appeal after appeal was denied. After nine years of struggle, their case appeared before the Supreme Court and was unanimously decided in their favor, basing their decision on the 14th amendment. Chief Justice Earl Warren stated, "Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides within the individual and cannot be infringed on by the State."

To see a map of the progression of states as it became legal to marry interracially, click here.

However, even though the June 12, 1967 Loving decision made it impossible for the states to legally separate these marriages, many states refused to remove it from their books.

In 1998, a clause that prohibited "marriage of a white person with a Negro or mulatto or a person who shall have one-eighth or more Negro blood" was removed South Carolina's state constitution. According to a Mason-Dixon poll four months before the vote, 22% of South Carolina voters were opposed to the removal of this clause that had been introduced in 1895.

In Alabama, it took until 2000 to remove these laws. A referendum was passed that removed this article from the Alabama State Constitution: "The Legislature shall never pass any law to authorize or legalize any marriage between any white person and a Negro, or a descendant of a Negro." ~Alabama State Constitution, Article IV, Section 102 (This section was introduced in 1901.) According to a poll conducted by the Mobile Register in September of 2000, 19% of voters said that they would not remove section 102.

Today, celebrations are held on or around every June 12. See here for some locations, possibly near you.

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