Today marks the 40th anniversary of Loving vs. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage in the United States.
Read that again. Just forty years ago, it was illegal for a Black person and a White person to get married. I'm only 38, my wife's only 42, and I have a sister who's over 50. Within our lifetimes, racism was enshrined in the laws of many states, and not yet considered unconstitutional by the federal government.
Just one year after "Loving", Kirk and Uhura shared the first interracial kiss in television history. Think about that -- at a time when this program about the progress of mankind in the future was airing, it was illegal for two human beings who happened to have different skin colors to marry each other. I daren't think about what would have happened to Spock's parents, a human and a Vulcan, contemplating a union in that kind of environment.
In some ways it's hard to imagine what people were thinking back then, how such blatant hatred and racism wouldn't inspire automatic revulsion. And yet, something like 20% of Americans still think it is wrong for whites and blacks to marry. Who can defend such bigotry? Let's turn to the very words they themselves wrote to find out. Judge Leon Bazile said in his original judgement:
In this State marriage is treated as a civil contract, but it is more than a mere civil contract, it is a public institution established by God himself, is recognized in all Christian and civilized nations and is essential to the peace, happiness, and well being of society. * * *"
"* * * The right in the States to control, to guard, protect and preserve this God-giving, civilizing and Christianizing institution is of inestimable importance, and cannot be surrendered, nor can the States suffer or permit any interference therewith.
And of course later Judge Bazile wrote:
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 marriages. The fact that he separated the races showes that he did not intend for the races to mix.
Does that sound familiar to you? It should. It's the same exact "reasoning" used to justify the enshrinement of homosexual bigotry in state laws today. I wish our generation had the sense to learn the lesson of Richard Perry Loving and Mildred Delores Jeter, that extending the protection of marriage to two people sincerely in love and committed to each other can only make the institution more secure, more profound, more valuable to our society.
Will our children look back forty years from now at this period in time and wonder how we could have lived with ourselves, how people could harbor such irrational hatred of two people in love?
I fervently, earnestly, and with all my heart hope so. Today we celebrate the victory in one battle of this long war for freedom, even while we fight on a new front. Bigotry and hatred may change the masks they show the world, but hopefully there will always be those who, like Loving and Jeter, stand up and call it for what it is.
Happy Loving Day, everyone! Now get out there and love someone, dammit!