What is Loving Day? 6/12

A celebration marking the day the Supreme Court struck down state bans against interracial marriage.

This day obtained its name from the monumental case, Loving v. Virginia, Richard and Mildred Loving. The 1967 Supreme Court decision struck down 16 state bans on interracial marriage as unconstitutional following this case.

“Over the long haul, it changes America,” said Peter Wallenstein, author of “Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry: Loving v. Virginia. “It’s just a stunning case.”

In the five decades since the decision, interracial marriage has increased dramatically. In 2015, one in six newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity which is more than five times higher than the number of intermarried newlyweds in 1967, according to Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. 


What is the story on Richard and Mildred Loving?

In 1958, Mildred got pregnant and the couple traveled to Washington, D.C. to get married. They then returned home to Caroline County, Virginia. Not long after coming home, they were woken in the middle of the night by policeman who informed them they were breaking the law.

Mildred Loving and her husband Richard P Loving are shown in this January 26, 1965 file photograph.

They were jailed on charges of unlawful cohabitation and were offered a choice: either continue to serve jail time or leave Virginia for 25 years. The couple chose the latter and left the state.

Wallenstein said Mildred Loving reportedly wrote a letter to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy pleading their case, and he directed her to the American Civil Liberties Union. A lawyer from the ACLU took their case, which eventually made its way to the Supreme Court where it was unanimously overturned on June 12, 1967.

Wallenstein described Mildred Loving as instrumental in getting the case overturned, but she never considered herself a hero.

“It wasn’t my doing,” she told The Associated Press, in a rare interview in 2007. “It was God’s work.”

Richard Loving died in a car crash 1975 and Mildred Loving died in 2008.

Their story is chronicled in the 2016 movie “Loving” as well as the 2011 documentary “The Loving Story.”

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What is Loving Day?

More than 30 years after the Loving v. Virginia decision, designer Ken Tanabe learned of the monumental ruling while in graduate school at Parsons School of Design. He said he was intrigued by the case because of his own interracial heritage and made it the subject of his graduate thesis project.

That project grew into Loving Day, a holiday Tanabe said is celebrated around the country and the globe. Loving Day has been officially recognized by a handful of states and cities including Virginia, Vermont, New York City and Los Angeles and civil rights organizations like the Anti-Defamation League.

Tanabe said the name is “not just a reference to a real couple who fought racial injustice, it also represents the love that we give to each other.”

How to celebrate Loving Day?

A small group of volunteers typically coordinates a flagship event in New York City, and Tanabe said he’s been in contact with people in the Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Taiwan and Spain.

Tanabe said people often celebrate with a backyard barbecue, community events, panel discussions or cultural performances. Some people even select June 12 as their wedding date because of its significance. 

Will Loving Day be different this year?

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the protests occurring around the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death, celebrations will likely look a lot different.

Although the day is historically centered on “joy and connection and community,” Tanabe has asked that people take “a meaningful pause” to stand in solidarity with the black community in light of the national conversations about racism.

“We’ve been asking folks to continue that tradition of observing Loving Day in meaningful and personal ways but also by joining us in coming together in support of black lives and justice,” he said.

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