The Story of Richard and Mildred Loving
October 11, 2016 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography
On November 4, the feature film “Loving” opens, from acclaimed writer/director Jeff Nichols and starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga in the roles of Richard and Mildred Loving.
Based on an anonymous tip that the Lovings were illegally living as a married, sheriff Garnett Brooks and two deputies burst into the Lovings’ bedroom on July 11, 1958 at 2 a.m. When Richard explained that the woman in bed with him was his wife, Brooks replied, “Not here she’s not.” They were arrested for unlawful cohabitation and both pled not guilty. Richard only spent one night in jail while Mildred had to spend four; Richard was told that he would be put back in jail if he tried to bail out his wife.
In October 1958, the grand jury of the Circuit Court of Caroline County charged the Lovings with violating two sections of Virginia’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act. Because Richard was white and Mildred was African American and Native American, their marriage was illegal and a felony offence in Virginia.
Banished from Virginia, the Lovings’ moved to Washington, D.C. In June 1963, Mildred wrote to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, asking if the new Civil Rights legislation would help her family return to Virginia. Kennedy responded that Mildred contact the American Civil Liberties Union, who had been actively pursuing anti-miscegenation test cases since the late 1950s. ACLU attorneys Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop took the Lovings’ case, filing a brief in November 1964. The Loving v. Virginia decision delivered on June 12, 1967, found all miscegenation laws unconstitutional.
From Chief Justice Earl Warren’s 1967 unanimous opinion:
"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."