When I tell people that my favorite day to celebrate love is not Valentine’s Day but Loving Day, I get a lot of confused looks and a lot of questions.
If you are not familiar with Loving Day and what it represents to many of us, let me give you a little background.
Loving Day is a day of celebration on June 12th every year and is the anniversary of the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia which struck down all anti-miscegenation laws remaining in sixteen U.S. states.
What are anti-miscegenation laws?
These laws were in place to prevent and criminalize the act of marriage between two people of different races. That is why Loving Day is so important to many, because without the dissipation of these laws, many of our loves as we know it would not exist.
Mildred and Richard Loving were the plaintiffs in the monumental case that helped cultivate and pave waves for future racial-equality issues in the United States. Mildred, a woman of mixed-race heritage identified as black, and Richard identifying as white, were married in Washington D.C. in June of 1958. The couple, being from Virginia, violated the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 and were eventually arrested at their home after someone called in an anonymous tip to the police. They were sentenced to a year in prison suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return together for 25 years. They moved to D.C. soon, but with time realized it was difficult to visit family in Virginia at the same time. Eventually, Mildred saw an opportunity to write her opposition to their situation and the financial burden and isolation it carried and sent a letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy directed Mildred to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) where she was assigned, three volunteer lawyers. These lawyers assisted the Lovings in filing a motion with the Virginia Caroline County Circuit Court to vacate the criminal judgments against them and set aside their sentences on the grounds that the Virginia miscegenation statutes ran counter to the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. For almost a year the Loving’s waited to get a response. Finally, after much frustration, their ACLU assigned lawyers issued a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Virginia. County court judge Leon Bazile was the one to finally issue a ruling on the motion to vacate, and used these choice words to finalize his interpretation of race:
“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 departed the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
Let me pause here because I want you to let those words sink in. This man, who was the presiding judge over an entire section of the state of different races, religions, and cultures, used his own personal beliefs to solidify the home of another. On January 22, 1965, a three-judge district court panel further drew out the issue by postponing the decision of the federal class-action case while the Lovings waited to appeal Judge Bazile’s decision in the Virginia Supreme Court, but were eventually volleyed back to the Caroline County Circuit Court where the Lovings, still supported by the ACLU, appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court. On June 12, 1967, however, after three years of proceedings and shuffling from court to court, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous 9-0 decision that overturned the Lovings’ Virginia criminal convictions and struck down the remaining anti-miscegenation laws that forbade marriage between people of different races.
The Lovings were not the only couple to face tribulations for being of mixed races, in fact, to this day mixed-race couples have faced personal, financial, and social issues as they struggle to find the right balance between their different cultures and backgrounds, and, as demonstrations continue to call for equality for all, such as the current Black Lives Matter movement, we find ourselves again opening wounds of racism and oppression. My husband and I, are different races, I am Hispanic and he is white, and in our home that may not matter, but outside in the world, for some reason, it does. We have many things that we love that are the same, but our cultural experiences do differ, and admittedly at times it can because of frustration, but as we have grown as a couple, we take the time to speak about our differences so we can learn more about them and embrace ourselves fully. Our differences are what make us beautiful and successful as a couple as we raise a mixed-race child. Bazile may have had his thoughts on race, but here is what we truly know about love—open hearts, open minds, and open eyes can see that love can conquer all.