Since the recent changes in the status of same-sex marriage in the states of Iowa and Vermont, and with other states such as Maine and New Hampshire also considering a change, perhaps it’s time to remember that this isn’t the first time America has faced the question of who can marry whom. In the 1920s, the Commonwealth of Virginia was one of several US states that adopted strict eugenics laws. One of those laws in Virginia was the Miscegenation Act, under which all people were registered by race at birth and it was against the law to have sex with or to marry someone of a different race. This wasn’t repealed until 1967, by the US Supreme Court, in the case Loving v. Virginia.
Mildred Delores Jeter Loving, whose Washington DC marriage to Richard Loving resulted in her and her husband being convicted of a felony under the Virginia law, had this to say about marriage in 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the decision that overturned the law:
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 God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone, they have a right to marry.
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.