It's always seemed singularly appropriate that the couple behind the landmark Loving v. Virginia — in which the Supreme Court declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute unconstitutional — should have the name they did. And watching their story will give you chills.
Mildred Loving, a black woman, married Richard Loving, a white man, in 1958. The couple wed in Washington, D.C. to avoid Virginia's Racial Integrity Act. But when they returned to their home state, police officers stormed their house in the middle of the night and arrested them for "miscegenation," a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. The judge who sentenced them (suspended as long as they left Virginia) declared,
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 ACLU took on the case, and gradually a movement began: by the time the case got to the Supreme Court, the Presbyterian, Unitarian and Catholic churches had all publicly condemned Virginia's actions. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions 9-0. Read the decision,
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. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. 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.
The timeliness of the story is obvious. And the documentary The Loving Story — currently seeking full funding through Kickstarter — uses amazing archival footage to bring it to stark, moving life. Putting faces and voices to the couple makes the story feel shockingly recent. The thing is, it is: Alabama only removed its anti-miscegenation statute from the books in 2000.