Looking Backward: DOMA and Loving v. Virginia

Looking Backward: DOMA and Loving v. Virginia

A few weeks ago, New York City was flooded with color, costume, and delight as the annual Gay Pride Parade wound its way through Greenwich Village and mid-town Manhattan. This June’s event, always a festive occasion, drew special energy—and unusually high numbers of participants– from the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rejection of California’s Defense of Marriage Act, signaling the highest court’s support for same-sex marriage, already legal in states like New York and Massachusetts, but contested in many other states of our union (Note the July 2 New York Times article on this issue).

The giddy celebration of this development brought to mind another important Supreme Court decision that supported couples too long denied the benefits of contract: Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 ruling that declared all miscegenation statutes in the United States unconstitutional. The case was famously brought before the Supreme Court by Richard and Mildred Loving, a couple forced into exile from their home state of Virginia by local laws that had incarcerated them for their marriage just weeks after their wedding in 1958.

Loving v. Virginia is one of several cases, hinging upon the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution, that constitutes precedent for the court’s recent determination regarding the California Defense of Marriage Act. As articles in The Atlantic Wire, and Slate have noted, opponents of same-sex marriage have invoked the same arguments concerning the supposedly bleak future of children raised by such couples, that were once raised in connection with parents and of mixed race.

To many in America’s so-called “millennial” generation–who, according to a recent survey by the Pew Charitable Trust, do not experience or perceive racial difference—or even same-sex relationships–in the negative light that preceding generations once did—it may be difficult to appreciate what a huge difference Loving v. Virginia made for those of us who belonged to that narrow– less than 3%–of American couples who took the chance of making lifetime commitments to loved ones across racial lines in the 1950s and 1960s (when it was not yet legal in many parts of the U.S.); or even in the 1970s and 1980s (when it was legal, but often carried a considerable socio-economic stigma). Some of us can tell pretty harrowing tales—of confrontations with family members, and police officers; of friendships that ended; of job opportunities sacrificed; of neighborhoods we couldn’t move into, perfect strangers who threatened us, and our families…and so on…and so on…

Mildred and Richard Loving

Mildred and Richard Loving (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To those who did not live through such times, these stories can seem apocryphal, almost like fairy tales about fighting with dragons in some evil, enchanted forest. And yet, even in our new, enlightened, twenty-first century, it seems to some of us that there’s still plenty of work to be done to make our society a truly equal one—not only for gay couples, who continue to face various forms of discrimination in many parts of the United States (note the recent study of housing discrimination, for example, by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) –but for families of all ethnicities.

What are we to think of the persistent inequities that undermine our public education system, recently discussed, for example, by Leonie Haimson and Diane Ravitch in The Nation? What are we to think of the continued racial biases in our criminal justice system, as noted by Patricia Williams in the same publication? Of the Paula Deen scandal, noted in this blog? And–lest we might imagine that these racial biases no longer inform our thinking about the intersection between race and family–how about the recent furor over that ad for Cheerios cereal that featured the bi-racial family—and got so much hate commentary that General Mills had to disable their youtube comment section for the video??

As we reflect on the legacy of Loving v. Virginia, forty-six years old this last June, Interrace Today wishes to remind readers that we welcome comments and submissions from all perspectives—from readers who may never have known a time when America did not think of itself as richly diverse in every possible way; as well as readers who remember the struggles of the last century. Whether you consider the personal to be political—or believe those two things should never overlap– Interrace Today is a publication dedicated to celebrating the spectrum of opinion across our multi-cultural society.

Would You Stop an Interracial Couple from Being Harassed?

Would You Stop an Interracial Couple from Being Harassed?

Most people never think of this question because, quite frankly, they don’t have to. If you don’t participate in interracial dating (or marriage) you don’t have to deal with people shaking their hands, making sounds, saying degrading things (that of course don’t make any logical sense), or attempting to belittle or abuse you in some other way.

English: Interracial married couple with Hmong...

English: Interracial married couple with Hmong traditional clothing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You don’t have to deal with parents treating you like a child and then punishing you to get you in line, you don’t have to deal with unseen repercussions (such as losing a job when the boss sees your wife or husband), and so many other forms racism takes in America.

Watch this video and tell us, “What Would You Do?”