Remembering Loving v. Virginia and The Couple Who Bravely Helped End The Ban on Interracial Marriage

Today is the 53rd anniversary commemorating the landmark decision made by United States' Supreme Court in the Loving v. Virginia case. The Supreme Court struck down state laws that forbidding interracial marriage. The annual celebration is inspired by the remarkable true story of interracial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving.

Richard Loving (Edgerton) was a white construction worker who fell madly in love with a local black woman, Mildred Jeter (Negga). But the Racial Integrity Law of 1924 would not grant the marriage license unless the "applicants are of pure white race."

In 1958, the couple had to travel from Virginia to Washington, D.C., where their vows would be considered legal. After exchanging their wedding vows, they returned home five weeks later to unopened arms. In the middle of the night, Virginian police officers stormed into their bedroom and arrested them for breaking the law, per Biography.

Can you imagine the emotional turmoil a pregnant Mildred Loving went through as she was locked up in a prison cell and branded a criminal? Charged with unlawful cohabitation, the married couple could be jailed if they were to remain in Virginia. At the time, there were about 20 states that had outlawed marriage between races. The Lovings decided to return to Washington D.C., where they raised their three children for the next five years.

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Perry Loving
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Perry Loving, an interracial couple, fight Virginia's law against interracial marriages. Getty

In 1963 during the Civil Rights Movement, Mildred sent a letter to U.S. attorney general Robert F. Kennedy in 1963. After being referred to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Lovings were able to take their case to the Supreme Court four years later. With the Supreme Court judges ruling in unanimous favor, Chief Justice Earl Warren declared, "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."

Not only did the Supreme Court decision repeal marriage bans on the basis of race, the Lovings were finally able to go back home to Virginia. Though her husband died in car accident in 1975, the widow became a prominent voice in the support for gay marriage.

One year before her death in 2008, the civil rights activist released a public statement on Loving Day's 40th Anniversary, "I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry."

"Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving and loving are all about," added Loving.