On this upcoming Valentine’s Day, many LGBTI activists continue to struggle for same-sex marriage in their states.
But as Alabama has become the 37th state to recognize marriage equality, I must pay tribute to the African American woman Mildred Loving who fought to marry her white male partner.
She is one of my heroes for Black History Month.
Back in 1958, the couple violated the nations rule that banned a couple of two different races from marrying.
Based on an anonymous tip, Virginia police raided their home at night hoping to find them having sex, which was also a crime according to the state law.
When the officers found them sleeping in bed, Mildred pointed out their marriage certificate on the bedroom law.
They were then charged, and later convicted, of entering into a interracial marriage.
The trial judge stated the following to the guilty couple: ‘Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and He placed them on separate continents.
‘And but for the interference with His arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix.’
The trial judge suspended their sentences on the condition the Lovings leave Virginia and not return to the state together for 25 years. The Lovings initially agreed and left, but soon after returned, and decided to fight their case.
And they did win it, helping to end all bans on interracial marriage across the United States.
On June 12, 1967, Chief Justice Earl Warren said: ‘Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man”, fundamental to our very existence and survival.
‘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.’
Forty years later, on 12 June 2007, Freedom to Marry joined with several of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations to hold a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia decision for affirming the freedom to marry as a ‘basic civil right’ of every American.
Lending her support to the commemoration, Mrs. Mildred Loving wrote, ‘When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight.
‘We were in love, and we wanted to be married. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, 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.
‘I am proud that Richard’s and my name are 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.’
A resolution authored by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin passed the House of Representatives on June 11, 2007, by unanimous consent commemorating the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia decision that ended the ban on interracial marriage in the United States and recognizing that marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man’ at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment protections.
Since the beheading of St. Valentine in Rome in the year 270 A.D., marriage has been controlled by church heads and heads of states and not by the hearts of lovers.
When Emperor Claudius II issued an edict abolishing marriage because married men hated to leave their families for battle, Valentine, known then as the ‘friend to lovers’, secretly joined them in holy matrimony. While awaiting his execution, Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and in his farewell message to his lover, he penned ‘From your Valentine!””¨’
May the ‘Loving spirit’ of Mildred and the justice acts of St. Valentine be with us on this day.