Privilege of being able to say “I do”

Just 44 years ago, it would have been illegal in many states for Jeff and me to get married. Prior to the famous United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia (1967), it was a felony in Virginia and other states for any white person to marry any “non-white person.” (Jeff would be the white person and I would be the non-white “yellow” person.)

In Loving, two residents of Virginia, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving married in District of Columbia in June, 1958. They returned to Virginia and lived as husband and wife. In October 1958, the Caroline County grand jury issued an indictment charging the Lovings with violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages. The Lovings pleaded guilty to the charge and were sentenced a 1 year jail term, which the judge suspended provided the Lovings leave the state of Virginia.

The Supreme Court cites the trial court judge who stated:

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 marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

I’m not even sure where to start on those three sentences. He apparently failed Constitutional Law because I thought for sure there was something about separation of Church and State. I don’t see what the word God is doing in his address. I won’t even go into the colors or the stupid logic of [the whites] running “interference.”

Even just reading the decision, I can’t help but feel outraged at the injustice. Yes, Lovings got their day in court and won but they were forced out of their home state and had to fight for almost 20 years before this decision vindicated their interracial marriage from a legal standpoint.

Which brings me to gay marriage. I could take the Loving decision, replace the word “race” with “sexual orientation” and use the logic that decided Loving to put the gay marriage debate to rest.

The holding in Loving which is 8 sentences long held:

These statutes also deprive the Lovings of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.

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 discriminations. 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.

These convictions must be reversed.

It is so ordered.

I love the simplicity of Loving. It’s 3 pages long. It’s beautifully written. And it’s clear. How much clearer can we get then:

“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.”

I also can’t get over the name of the case. Loving. How appropriate for this decision. Because at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about? Two people being allowed to love one another, to be bound in the union of marriage? What right does the State have to say you can’t marry someone simply because of the other person’s sex, or sexual orientation? Love is hard enough to find.

I just hope the Supreme Court gets it right – once more.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rick Rutledge September 1, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Huzzah.

None of the recent plaintiffs’ names come to mind, so I don’t know if we’ll get a good citation or not. In any case (no pun intended), a good *outcome* is far more important.

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