Legal prejudice will not prevail in the long run — let “Loving” be our guide

Many people I talk with say that opposing Amendment One is a losing battle. If they are right, then on May 8th, a majority of voters will write legal prejudice against gays and lesbians into the NC constitution.

In June 1958, it was legal prejudice of a similar kind that landed Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, in jail in Virginia.  Their crime was nothing more than the act of two people deciding to get married.  The legal prejudice at the time prohibited interracial marriage.

The trial judge who sentenced them had this to say: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix”.

The Supreme Court, in a bold decision for the time in Loving v. Virginia, called marriage a basic civil right and held that “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”.   http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0388_0001_ZO.html

Some will argue that the Loving decision has no applicability to the current debate, saying that gays do not have a 14th Amendment equal protection basis in the law for same-sex marriage.  But even if they are right, they miss the point of Loving.

The legal prejudice of the Virginia law, of the prosecutor, of the trial judge and of the intermediate appellate court, did not win out.  It took nine years from the time of the arrest until the Supreme Court ruled, but in the long run, legal prejudice was defeated. And that is one of the points I want to make about Loving.

The other point about Loving was made by Mildred herself, on the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision.  http://www.freedomtomarry.org/page/-/files/pdfs/mildred_loving-statement.pdf

Here are a few paragraphs from her remarks entitled “Loving for All”:

“When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married”.

“Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights”.

“I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about”.

If the pundits are right, and I hope they are not, legal prejudice may come to the NC constitution on May 8th, but if it does, it can only last so long.  It can only last so long.

Eventually, loving will win out.

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One Response to Legal prejudice will not prevail in the long run — let “Loving” be our guide

  1. Tom Bryson says:

    Landis, thanks for all of your thoughtful work on this series. We have been amazed by the resources you have accessed and the dedicaton you have shown to justice. I hope we don’t have to wait years or decades to see justice in this case, but I appreciate your encouragement and optimism that justice can prevail.

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