Shortly after returning from their DC wedding, Mildred and Richard Loving were arrested at their home in Virginia. Their crime? He was white and she was not.
Virginia's courts found that since the Racial Integrity Act punished the two Lovings equally, it did not discriminate against any race. They also came up with justifications for the law, some of which seem bizarre by today's standards:
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 Supreme Court of the United States, in contrast, could find no rational basis for the law. Instead, they described it as "designed to maintain White Supremacy", as it only divided whites from non-whites rather than trying to protect the "integrity" of every race.
That alone might have been enough to overturn Virginia's law, but the supremes went further. They held that "equal application does not immunize the statute" from the strict scrutiny applied to laws involving race. It would take much more than a supposed rational basis to justify a state law against interracial marriage.
The Supreme Court's unanimous decision concluded beautifully:
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.
Loving v. Virginia brought the end of anti-miscegenation laws, not only in Virginia, but throughout the Southern United States.
I am struck by how recently this decision came: June 12, 1967 was only 42 years ago. That I grew up considering multiracial couples normal is a testament to the success of the previous generation's civil rights movement.
In the spirit of the court's decision, I would like to wish all couples a happy Loving Day.
I'll save the jealousy for February.