On this day in 1967, the United States Supreme Court declared all state laws prohibiting interracial marriage to be unconstitutional. The case, Loving v. Virginia was brought forth by Richard Loving, who was white, and his wife, Mildred, who was black and Native American. The pair had previously been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for their marriage.
The Lovings met in their small hometown in Virginia, when Richard attended one of Mildred’s brother’s music shows. The couple traveled to Washington, D.C., to marry after Mildred became pregnant at the age of 18. Upon return, their home was raided by police in the early morning hours as they lay in bed sleeping.
Loving sought the advice of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, writing, “We know we can’t live there, but we would like to go back once and awhile to visit our families and friends.” Kennedy referred the Lovings to the ACLU, who in turn provided lawyers for a case.
Just eight years after the Court’s decision, the Lovings were struck by a drunk driver; Richard was killed instantly. Mildred never considered another marriage.
In recent years, Loving v. Virginia has been cited as precedent in federal court decisions concerning same-sex marriage. After many years of silence from Mildred, gay rights activists approached her on the 40th anniversary of the ruling to request her support for same-sex marriage. At first, Mildred was hesitant. In the end, however, she was on board.
“Are you sure that you understand what you’re saying?” the activists asked, “You understand that you’re putting your name behind the idea that two men or two women should have the right to marry each other?” To this she said, “I understand it, and I believe it.”