Modern reading - From Interview with Mildred Loving
Our reading is from a 2007 interview with Mildred Loving, whose interracial marriage to Richard Loving in 1958 was the basis for the Supreme Court Decision that declared the prohibition of interracial marriage unconstitutional.
“I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have the 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.”
The 2016 film, Loving, available on HBO, tells the story of the 1958 interracial marriage of Richard and Mildred Loving that led to the 1967 Supreme Court decision that gave people of different races the right to marry each other in the United States. Mildred and Richard grew up together in Central Point Virginia, where black, white, and Native American farmers and laborers lived together in an integrated community in a very segregated state. They fell in love, and when Mildred became pregnant, they decided to get married and build a house on the lot next to where both their families lived. They didn’t know that it was illegal for them to be married in the state of Virginia. Richard had heard it was less trouble for a white man and a black woman to get married in DC. So that’s what they did. When they came back home to Virginia, they were arrested, because the 1924 Racial Integrity Act forbade a white person from marrying anyone who was not also white. The judge gave them the choice of serving a year in prison or leaving and not returning the state for 25 years. They moved to a slum in DC, which is all they could afford, and had 3 more children. But Central Point was always home. It’s where their families lived, it’s where their community was. It’s what they knew, and they longed to go back there. While living in DC, Mildred was watching the 1963 March on Washington on TV with a friend who told her that she needed to get some of those civil rights everybody was talking about and encouraged her to write to Attorney General Robert Kennedy. She did, and he passed her letter on to the ACLU, which agreed to take her case. They first filed a motion with the Caroline County, Virginia judge to vacate the conviction and sentence he had issued. The judge replied: “Almighty God created the races, white, black, malay, and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference of his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races means that he did not intend for the races to mix.” They then appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court and lost, as they expected. Meanwhile, after almost 10 years living away from their home, Mildred and Richard bought a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in a neighboring county to theirs in Virginia, where they basically lived in hiding, but their children could grow up not in a slum, but on the land and near family. Finally, the lawyers appealed the case to the US Supreme Court, and in 1967, the court ruled that interracial marriage was protected by the 14th amendment’s guarantee that no state could deny any person equal protection under the law. And the right for people of different races to marry became law in all of the United States.
Only about 15 percent of the movie Loving is about the court case. The rest is about the love between Mildred and Richard and their family and community. There are scenes of everyone around the dinner table, telling stories and enjoying each other’s company. Richard sitting in his car outside the jail all night because they wouldn’t allow him to bail Mildred out. Their sneaking back to Virginia while living in DC, so that Richard’s mother, who was a midwife, could deliver their baby. Their tenderness with one another. And, when the attorneys asked him what he would like them to say to the Supreme Court, Richard, a man of few words, said, simply, “Tell the judge I love my wife.” The court case of Loving vs. Virginia was fundamental in insuring the right of all Americans, regardless of color, to marry. And it was cited as a precedent in the Marriage Equality Supreme Court decision of 2015 that gave same-sex couples the right to marry. From that case came the slogan, Love wins. And love can win. We have seen it win. We must keep working for it, so that our children and our grandchildren can grow up in a world where love is love no matter what. Amen.