Main | Monday, May 05, 2008

Mildred Loving, 68

Mildred Loving, the black woman whose fight against Virginia's ban on interracial marriage led to the Supreme Court overturning all such laws nationwide, has died at age 68. Loving's cause of death was not disclosed.
Loving and her white husband, Richard, changed history in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their right to marry. The ruling struck down laws banning racially mixed marriages in at least 17 states.

They had married in Washington in 1958, when she was 18. Returning to their Virginia hometown, they were arrested within weeks and convicted on charges of "cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth," according to their indictments.

The couple avoided a year in jail by agreeing to a sentence mandating that they immediately leave Virginia. They moved to Washington and launched a legal challenge a few years later. After the Supreme Court ruled, the couple returned to Virginia, where they lived with their children Donald, Peggy and Sidney. Richard Loving died in 1975 in a car accident that also injured his wife.

In a rare interview with The Associated Press last June, Loving said she wasn't trying to change history — she was just a girl who once fell in love with a boy. "It wasn't my doing," Loving said. "It was God's work."
Loving v. Virginia was a landmark victory for civil rights in America and overturned the state's Racial Integrity Act Of 1924 which required that the race of all people born in Virginia be categorized as either "white" or "non-white" and made interracial marriage a felony.

I was a third-grader living in North Carolina when the Loving decision was handed down and NC was one of the "slave states" affected by the ruling. It's hard to believe now that I once lived in a time and a place when interracial marriage was illegal. But there are millions of 8 year-olds alive today who will one day say the same thing about same-sex marraige.

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