54 years ago, the US Supreme Court made a historic decision on the unconstitutionality of the ban on marriages between representatives of different races.
On Saturday, June 12, the United States celebrates Loving Day – an unofficial holiday dedicated to the historic decision of the Supreme Court on the legality of marriage between representatives of different races. The name of the holiday is a play on words, based on the last name of the American Richard Loving, who decided to marry Mildred Jeter. In English, the word-loving means “loving, full of love”.
Richard and Mildred Lovings registered their marriage in Virginia in June 1958, but a few weeks later, police broke into their home in the middle of the night and arrested the couple. According to the laws of Virginia at the time, their marriage was declared illegal, since Mildred was of mixed Indian-African American descent, and Richard was white.
A Virginia court sentenced the Lovings to a year in prison, offering them a choice of imprisonment or exile from the state. The couple moved from Virginia to the neighboring federal District of Columbia, but a few years later they appealed to the American Civil Liberties Union to appeal the decision of the court in Virginia. Lawyers Bernard Cohen and Philip Hirschkop asked the court to determine whether the Virginia law violates the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which not only proclaims the equality of all citizens regardless of skin color but also punishes states for violating these regulations.
The case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Lovings on June 12, 1967. The justices unanimously signed the ruling, which states that restricting civil liberties based on race violates the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.
Thanks to a landmark Supreme Court decision, the ban on interracial marriage has been declared unconstitutional across the country. Chief Justice Earl Warren noted that marriage is a fundamental civil right, and denying that right based on color “directly undermines the principle of equality at the heart of the 14th Amendment.”
Richard Loving died in a car crash in 1975, just eight years after the Supreme Court ruling, and Mildred died in 2008 at the age of 68. In 2016, American director Jeff Nichols made a feature film “Loving,” based on real events related to the struggle of the spouses for their rights. The film was presented at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award.
Love Day is not a federal holiday, despite numerous attempts by human rights organizations to declare it as such. However, it is the largest celebration in the United States that promotes race relations. It is officially celebrated in Virginia, Vermont, New York, and the Los Angeles City District.
As stated on the official website of the initiative lovingday.org, Love Day is a community project run by volunteers whose mission “is to support the tradition of celebrating Love Day as a way to combat racism through education, awareness-raising, and social networking.”