Tonight HBO premieres a new documentary about one of the most important marriages in American history. And their name was Loving.
They should have been able to have the quiet life they hoped for. Mildred and Richard Loving were residents of Virginia who were married in the District of Columbia in 1958. The law of their home state prohibited marriage between people of different races. Mildred was black and Native American and Richard was white.
Police broke into their Virginia home while they were asleep in bed and accused them of the crime of sex outside of marriage. Mrs. Loving pointed to their marriage certificate on the wall in their defense, but that constituted another crime, the crime of miscegenation, a felony punishable with up to five years in prison. They were sentenced to a year in prison, suspended on the condition that they leave the state.
The case filed by the ACLU went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 1967 that miscegenation laws violated the United States Constitution.
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 discrimination. 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.
They were together until Mr. Loving was killed in an automobile accident in 1975. Mrs. Loving made a rare public statement in 2007 in support of extending the same right granted to her by the Supreme Court to gay couples. She died the following year.
Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.
I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.