American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

46th Anniversary of Loving

They dared to love each other when the law said it was illegal.

In 1958, Mildred Jeter, a woman of African-American and Native-American decent, married Richard Loving, a white man. They were thrown in prison.

Believing that the United States Constitution guaranteed them the fundamental freedom to marry, they filed a lawsuit. That watershed case, Loving v. Virginia, was decided by the Supreme Court 46 years ago today.  The unanimous Court said:

“Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. … 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.”

Before she died, Mildred Loving wrote a heart-felt letter about how their historic case plays an important role today—in securing marriage for gay and lesbian couples:

“… I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving [v. Virginia], and loving [each other], are all about.”

The Loving decision is indeed one of 14 key precedents in AFER’s case against Prop. 8.

At the time, 20% of Americans believed it was okay to marry someone from a different race. Far different from the over 30 polls that have shown majority support for marriage equality.

Previously, AFER attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies recorded a short video to mark the case’s importance on AFER’s federal challenge to Prop. 8 (above).

The Loving’s quest for equality was also told in the moving documentary The Loving Story.