Tuesday, May 06, 2008
You may have heard of the death of Mildred Loving. She was half of the interracial couple that the State of Virginia jailed and tried to force to leave the state for the simple fact that they were married:
In June 1958, two residents of Virginia, Mildred Jeter, a Negro woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in the District of Columbia pursuant to its laws. Shortly after their marriage, the Lovings returned to Virginia and established their marital abode in Caroline County. At the October Term, 1958, of the Circuit Court ... of Caroline County, a grand jury issued an indictment charging the Lovings with violating Virginia's ban on interracial marriages. On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pleaded guilty to the charge and were sentenced to one year in jail; however, the trial judge suspended the sentence for a period of 25 years on the condition that the Lovings leave the State and not return to Virginia together for 25 years.This chilling statement came from the sentencing judge:
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 marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.The Lovings returned to the District of Columbia but, in 1963, they sought to have their convictions and sentences overturned on the grounds that Virginia's antimiscegenation statutes violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. After wending its way through various courts, the case went before the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia, which upheld the convictions, giving as its rationale that the state had legitimate purposes "to preserve the racial integrity of its citizens," and to prevent "the corruption of blood," which would result in "a mongrel breed of citizens," and "the obliteration of racial pride."
On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a unanimous decision, overtuned the Loving's convictions. Chief Justice Earle Warren, writing for the Court, stated:
These statutes also deprive the Lovings of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.Nor was Virginia an aberration. To our national shame, Virginia was only one of 16 States which prohibited and punished marriages on the basis of racial classifications at the time. Today, our shame continues in denying marriage on the basis of an equally arbitrary category: sexual orientation.
Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. ... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.
There is a Loving Day celebration now every June 12th. It couldn't be better named.