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Marriage Equality Pioneer Dies

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Early Marriage Equality Pioneer Dies :: EDGE Boston


A pioneer in the cause of full and equitable marriage rights for all Americans has died.


Mildred Loving, who together with her husband Richard took on the state of Virginia and all states with laws against interracial marriage, died at age 68, reportedly of pneumonia, said a May 6 article in the New York Times.


Loving and her husband had married in Washington, D.C., despite living in Virginia, because their home state forbade interracial marriage under a law known as the Racial Integrity Act.


When they returned to Virginia and lived together as husband and wife, they were subjected to arrest in the middle of the night by a sheriff and his deputies, who entered the coupleâ€s home and their bedroom in the dead of night and dismissed their marriage certificate, which hung over their bed, saying, "Thatâ€s no good here."


Indeed, in an early parallel to todayâ€s patchwork of state measures regarding same-sex families, the nation in 1958 included some states where people of different skin tones could marry one another, and states where they could not. In Virginia at the time, interracial marriages performed outside the state were not acknowledged as valid.


The couple were booked on felony charges and pled guilty. The judge in the case, Leon Bazile, informed them that Godâ€s place had been to keep the races separate, but offered the couple a deal: they could leave their home state for not less than 25 years, returning for visits only separately, and their sentence would be suspended.


It was a deal the young couple took. Five years later, however, they came back fighting, and took the issue to court. The case was supported by the ACLU and the NAACP; four years later, in 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously invalidated all state laws that criminalized marriage for people of different races.


The New York Times article noted that those laws, called anti-miscegenation laws, were the last vestiges of legal segregation.


The New York Times article recalled the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., uttered in 1958: "When any society says that I cannot marry a certain person, that society has cut off a segment of my freedom."


Last year, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Courtâ€s affirmation of heterosexuals of any race having the freedom to marry the person of their choice, Loving issued a statement in which she said that she supported the rights of all people--gay as well as straight--to marry the person they loved.


The statement, which celebrated the June 12, 2007 anniversary of the ruling, started out, "When my late husband, Richard [killed in a car crash in 1975], and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasnâ€t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married."


In the third paragraph, Loving wrote, "When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isnâ€t that what marriage is?"


Lovingâ€s statement recalled that, "...on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, â€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,†a â€basic civil right.â€"


Wrote Loving, "My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was Godâ€s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love."


However, "The older generationâ€s fears and prejudices have given way, and todayâ€s young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry," Loving continued.


Wrote Loving, "I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry."


Loving went on, "Government has no business imposing some peopleâ€s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies peopleâ€s civil rights."


Writing, "I am still not a political person," Loving nonetheless stated, "I am proud that Richardâ€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."


Wrote Loving, "I support the freedom to marry for all."


Until the Supreme Court ended such laws, 38 states had had legislation at some time that denied interracial couples the right to marry. The Virginia law that criminalized the Lovings†marriage had been on the books since 1662, reported the New York Times.


The New York Times article also noted that in the South, state constitutions continued to include language barring mixed-race couples from marriage rights despite the 1967 ruling. Alabama was the final state to purge its constitution of such language, in the year 2000.


Currently, voters in 27 states have amended their constitutions to ban marriage equality. Several other states are expected to put ballot questions regarding similar anti-gay constitutional amendments before the voters this November.


Only ten states offer some form of legal acknowledgment for gay and lesbian families, whether in the form of domestic partnerships, civil unions, or marriage.


Only Massachusetts offers full-fledged marriage equality, and has done so for four years.

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The fact that laws like this ever existed is just sad!!


People like the Lovings make me think we should be more socially active and speak out against the injustices that exist still today. God Bless interracial love and ALL love :)


How cute that their name was "Loving"

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ahh you gotta love VA laws, DH and I were living illegally before we got married...the south is still around unfortunately. Good for this woman and her husband for fighting this dumb law. I salute her!

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Yeah, isn't VA still a commonwealth. I have no idea what that means, but I know there is something special about it. It's a beautiful state though. I thought I wanted to live in No. Va when I went to school in the area....

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it is a commonwealth but that doesn't really mean anything, Mass is also a commonwealth. NoVa is a beautiful area, we like living here.

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I know, it's crazy! And how sad is it that he died in a crash 8 years after the ruling? I love the last name too...Loving vs. the Commonwealth of VA - how fitting :)

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THanks for sharing this story Jamey. I have never heard of it and that's an incredible story that deserves to be told and told again.

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