Amidst the past years of unrest and uncertainty, one thing has endured—love. During the pandemic, we have been asked to take actionable steps to show those whom we love and who love us that we love them. Repeatedly, we have heard about the resilience of love. But, for many, this has not always been true. Their “official” right to love whom they desire to love has come only through long and hard-fought legal battles. In recognition and celebration of that legal victory, many people across the country recognize “Loving Day,” a celebration of the ruling by the Supreme Court in 1967 that made anti-miscegenation laws illegal. These laws, which date back to 1691, were designed to criminalize interracial marriage.
In 1958, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter were dragged out of their bed and faced five-year prison sentences for violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, even though they had been legally married in Washington, D.C. The couple was faced with the choice of spending five years in prison or being banished from Virginia for no less than 25 years. They chose the latter, but they did not remain silent. With the help of the ACLU, the Lovings filed suit, and their case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Fast-forward to 1967 when the Supreme Court ruled in their favor. In writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice Earl Warren famously stated that “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.” In 2015, according to the Pew Research Center, one in six newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, which is more than five times higher than the number of intermarried newlyweds in 1967.
Today, Loving Day has been officially recognized by a handful of states, cities and civil rights organizations. How can you acknowledge this legal victory? Start by taking time to reflect on Loving Day. Take time to learn about racial injustice. Watch the movie Loving Day. Start conversations about racism in society. Stand in solidarity with our multiracial, multiethnic communities. Gather some friends, have a back-yard cookout, arrange for a panel discussion or cultural performance or join with others and plan a community-wide event. Take time to reflect and rejoice! Celebrate Loving Day!