Nowadays in many parts of the world, people generally have the freedom to marry the one they love irrespective of the colour, race, and gender of the person concerned. But while these love stories can have their happy endings owing to the changed time, these changes have been hard-earned. The story of ‘Lovings’ is one such story of a couple whose fight for their love set a precedent for interracial marriages getting legality over the years in all parts of America. The story of Mr. And Mrs. Richard Loving, being a white man who fell in love in love with Mildred Jeter, a woman of color, is a reason for the happy endings of many other love stories. The fight they had to undergo for gaining legal rights as a married interracial couple is what makes their story not only an exemplary one but a story for the ages to remember and honor.
This story has its beginning in the suburban region of Caroline County, Virginia, during the years of World War II. At that time, many states of America, including Virginia had strict laws against interracial relationships. The rural Caroline county, however, was not very particular about racial differences and allowed free racial mingling to a certain extent.
Richard Perry Loving was brought up in this atmosphere of Caroline County and was born on 29 October 1933 to a white couple, Lola and Twillie Loving. From a very young age, Richard helped his father in the farms and later in his life became a construction worker. He was also fond of drag car racing. Richard’s life took a turn when he fell in love with a girl of color, Mildred Jeter unknowing to them at the time that their journey from love to marriage would end up being a revolutionary one. Richard and Mildred had two kids together, Donald and Peggy Loving and they also raised Mildred’s son from her previous relationship, Sydney Jeter as their own.
His Interracial Marriage With Mildred Delores Jeter
Since there was no strict discrimination between blacks and whites in the region of rural Caroline County, Richard Loving and his family had friends who were both coloured as well as black. The Jeters, Theoliver and Musiel Jeter were family friends of the Lovings. Richard was 17 years old when he met 11-year-old Mildred Jeter during the 1950s. Their friendship which blossomed over the years eventually turned into a romantic affair. But they were not in an ongoing relationship throughout, instead, Mildred even had a son from her other relationship in 1957, who was raised by Richard and Mildred together and was the eldest of the three kids they had. Later when Mildred got pregnant with her second and Richard’s first biological son, that is when they both decided to get married and settle down together.
But the walk to the aisle was not an easy one for the couple. Mildred though did not have any black ancestry and was actually a native American, her birth certificate stated that both she and her parents were coloured. While Richard was recognized as a white man before the law. And hence their marriage was illegal in Virginia and in many other states of America because of certain laws that considered miscegenation as a crime and a punishable offense.
The Lovings tried to avoid the ‘Racial Integrity Act of 1924’ of Virginia and planned to get married in Washington DC, the capital where no such restricting laws were applicable. They got their marriage license in Washington and got married there on June 2nd, 1958. Then they came back to Virginia with the marriage license and expected to be at peace but it could not last long. On July 11th, 1958 approximately one month later, police invaded their privacy by entering their house at two in the morning and arrested them under section 20-59, which criminalized miscegenation. The Lovings referred to the marriage license to which were told by the police that it was not valid in Virginia as under section 20-58, they were not allowed to marry in some other state and return back to Virginia. Hence the couple got arrested. Richard got out on bail after one night but Mildred had to stay in the cell for three more nights.
The Case of Loving v. Virginia
After their arrest, the case was held in the caroline county court on 6 Jan 1959. The judge who took up their case, Leon M. Bazile declared them guilty for violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act under sections 20-58 and 20-59 for living together as a married couple would, with kids. As a result of which they were punished with detention in the form of one-year imprisonment but got their detention cut short on the condition that they leave Virginia for twenty-five years. And accordingly, Richard and Mildred left the state and moved to a district in Columbia. They lived there for five years. But owing to the difficulties they were facing in adjusting to city life in addition to being financially unstable and not being able to travel to Virginia to see their families, they decided on certain measures to change their situation. The ongoing Civil Rights Movement worked as a spark of motivation for the couple. So they wrote to the then head of United States Department of Justice, Robert F. Kennedy, who referred them to A.C.L.U, the American Civil Liberties Union. From there, two volunteers of ACLU took up the Lovings’ case, Bernard Cohen and Philip Hischkop.
These two attorneys filed a case in the Virginia Caroline County Circuit court to legally cancel the previous judgment given to the Lovings. But for no response was given from the court for almost a year, they took up the case to the district court of East Virginia. To this, the court judge at the county, Leon M. Bazile wrote that God himself has created racial differences and that this suggested that God did not want people from different races to mix.
The district court also delayed a decision on the Loving v. Virginia case and sent it to the federal class-action case on Jan 22, 1965. After this, the Lovings took up the case to the Virginia Supreme- court and questioned upon the constitutionality of the decision given in county court, on the basis of ‘Equal Protection Clause’. But it was dismissed by the then chief justice of Virginia Supreme court, Harry L. Carrio by stating that both white and coloured spouse got equal punishment and hence no violation of equal protection clause has undertaken. And that they did not consider anti-miscegenation laws as unconstitutional.