Loving Day: How Interracial Marriage First Became Legal In U.S.

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Every year on June 12, Loving Day commemorates the 1967 landmark Supreme Court case that struck down bans against interracial marriage across the country.

The historic ruling under Loving v. Virginia was sparked by interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving who were arrested in 1958 for simply being together.

In the middle of the night, Richard, a white man, and Mildred, a Black and Native American woman, woke up to police hunting them down in their Virginia home. The state had deemed their cohabitation unlawful and their marriage illegal.

The Lovings faced a judge who presented them with the choice of serving prison time or being banished from the state. At the time, the couple decided to leave Virginia, but a few years later they recruited the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to back their case.

Bernard Cohen and Philip Hirschkop, ACLU lawyers, argued that the Virginia ban on interracial marriage violated protections under the 14th Amendment.

"The language was broad, the language was sweeping. The language meant to include equal protection for Negroes that was at the very heart of it and that equal protection included the right to marry as any other human being had the right to marry subject to only the same limitations," the lawyers argued according to NPR.

As the case moved up to the nation's highest court, Richard's plea to justices was simple: "Tell them I love my wife," he said.

In 1967, Supreme Court Justices unanimously decided in favor of the interracial couple. Loving v. Virginia became a landmark case that reinforced race-based distinctions as unconstitutional.

Earl Warren, the Chief Justice who wrote the court opinion, noted that marriage was a basic civil right and to prohibit this right due to race or ethnicity was "directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment."

Loving Day has become a celebration of all types of love and a representation of the Lovings' fight for racial justice.

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