June 12 is Loving Day. No, that isn’t Valentine's Day Part II or some Hallmark-invented holiday.
But it is about romance, or one romance in particular, that of Virginians Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, who fell in love and had a wedding in Washington, D.C. When they came home to Virginia to set up housekeeping, they were arrested and sentenced to a year in jail.
Why? What crime did they commit? And why would I toast a couple of jailbirds?
They broke Virginia’s antimiscegenation law, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which required the racial registration of each newborn and forbad marriage between a “white person” and a “nonwhite person.” It included the “Pocahantas exception”: A person who was no more than one-sixteenth Indian could qualify as an official white person. In that same year, compulsory sterilization legislation enabled the state to sterilize anyone it considered not smart enough to reproduce. There is no evidence that any state legislators were sterilized as a result, just some poor people.
That seems shocking now but was common in the 1960s. My own uncle had to turn down a job transfer to Georgia because his interracial marriage would have been declared null and void and he could have been prosecuted for “living in sin.”
But Richard and Mildred had some gumption, as some people did back then, and they appealed their conviction all the way to the Supreme Court. On June 12, 1967, that law was held to be contrary to the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
I’ve known, slightly, the famous Renee and Demetrius since the days of the Dean blog, and they discussed their 19-year marriage yesterday to draw parallels between Loving v. Virginia and Republican attempts to enshrine bigotry in the Constitution by blocking gay and lesbian marriages. I thank them for their wisdom and insight, salute them on their upcoming anniversary, and join them in hoping that my friends who are lesbian couples will soon have the right to legal marriage, just like mine.
Happy Loving Day!Posted by Joyful Alternative at June 04, 2006 12:40 PM