Today is Loving Day, a holiday commemorating the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down all anti-miscegenation laws remaining in the United States at the time. At a time such as this, Loving Day is one of many important commemorations that occur in June which need to be reflected on, discussed, and remembered.
Anti-miscegenation laws banned interracial marriage, particularly banning marriage between non-whites and whites. These laws had existed in many places since the foundation of the United States of America and had not really started to be repealed until after World War II. At the time of the Supreme Court's decision, the laws remained on the books in sixteen states.
Loving v. Virginia was brought by Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter Loving, a white man and a black woman, a couple who had met and courted for seven years before their marriage. They first met when Mildred was 11 and Richard was 17. He was a family friend and over the years they became close. They married in Washington, D.C. in 1958, when Mildred was 18. Reportedly, she did not know that interracial marriage was a crime. They were arrested a few weeks after they returned to their hometown north of Richmond, Virginia. They pled guilty to charges of "cohabitating as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the commonwealth," and avoided jail by agreeing to leave Virginia and not return for twenty-five years. The Lovings then moved to Washington, D.C. and began to pursue their appeal. They wrote the U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who referred them to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU was able to appeal the case all the way to the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Chief Justice Warren wrote the majority opinion, finding that "the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides within the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State."
The persistence of the Lovings achieved a landmark decision for civil rights in the United States. Their steadfast devotion to each other, their steadfast declaration of love achieved what politicians and law-makers could not.
In recognition of the day, we are called to remember. To remember that anti-miscegenation laws are a part of our past. To not shy away from discussing them. How many of us come from families or communities where we recognize interracial marriage is not illegal, but we know we would be punished for dating or marrying outside of our race? Or live in communities that make interracial couples feel like outsiders? How many of us would warn our children against dating someone who is black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.?
Though we preach in churches that there is "no longer Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female" or black or white, how many of us live as if we are still to be separate? Though we are all party of the one body of Christ. These are still questions we need to expose and explore.
Today is also a day for love. To honor the Loving's marriage by showing love to our fellow human beings. To gather and celebrate. Today should be a day of racial unity. To demonstrate love and harmony between us.
To learn more about Loving Day, visit the website here. It contains great resources for continued learning on Loving v. Virginia, anti-miscegenation laws, and other similar stories. We could all stand to be better educated on the subject.
For while we need to see color, so that we can recognize patterns and correct them, so we can celebrate our diversity, so we can strengthen us all, we must remember that love is colorblind.