Today marks the 46th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision, the Supreme Court decision that declared Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statutes unconstitutional and ended all similarly discriminatory laws across the country. Mildred Loving–a black woman–and Richard Loving–a white man–were each sentenced to a year in prison for marrying in violation of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act after police raided their house late at night in 1958 in response to an anonymous tip. Their sentences were suspended on the condition that they leave the state of Virginia. The ruling was upheld on appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court, but in 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction on the grounds that Virginia’s statute violated the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. … To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry or not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the state.
These convictions must be reversed.
Groups across the country are celebrating the occasion with Loving Day events, including the tenth annual such observance this weekend in New York and even an event tonight as far away as London, UK. In Birmingham, Alabama, a couple celebrated this past weekend by hosting a screening of the documentary The Loving Story along with a history of bans on interracial marriage and an opportunity for viewers to share their own stories.
The significance of this court decision, however, is certainly not lost on Jason and Williesha Morris, an interracial couple living in the Birmingham area. “It’s a very, very important part of our history; it changed everything,” Williesha said. Because without that case she and Jason may not have been able to marry last October.
Williesha hopes that even those who aren’t in interracial relationships will attend Saturday’s event.
“I just want people who accept diversity and appreciate diversity to be there,” she said.
“For me it’s the history,” Jason said. “It’s important for people to understand where we came from because otherwise there’s a small chance we’ll end up repeating it.”