Commemorating the Lovings and their courage
6/16/2017, 1:25 p.m.
By Saraya Wintersmith
A state historical marker in Downtown now commemorates the landmark Loving v. Virginia case, which resulted in laws banning interracial marriage being overturned in Virginia and 16 other states.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe and his wife, First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, were joined by Mayor Levar M. Stoney, Sen. Rosalyn R. Dance, Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan and others to unveil the marker on Monday, the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision.
The new marker is located at 11th and Broad streets, outside the state-owned Patrick Henry Building, which once housed the Virginia Supreme Court.
Virginia’s highest court upheld the law that triggered the arrest and conviction of Richard and Mildred Loving of Caroline County in July 1958.
Richard, a white man, and Mildred, an African-American woman, married in the District of Columbia, and returned to their home in Caroline County’s Central Point. They were arrested and convicted of violating Virginia’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act, which banned interracial marriage. A judge suspended their yearlong jail sentence on the condition that the couple leave the state for 25 years.
The Lovings appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court with the held of the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1967, the nation’s highest court overturned Virginia’s law and lifted all such interracial marriage bans across the nation.
“It’s almost hard to believe, but that’s actually what happened,” Gov. McAuliffe told the gathering of more than 100 people at the marker dedication ceremony.
“All they wanted to do was get married. They loved each other, and all they wanted was their state to recognize them.”
While the Lovings are now deceased, neither of their two surviving children or other relatives attended the ceremony. Julie Langan, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, said they prefer to remain out of the public eye.
Ms. Langan described the Loving v. Virginia marker as one that will fill a “glaring gap” in the nation’s oldest highway marker system.
“Our motivation stems from the belief that in order to mature and to evolve as a society, we must analyze and often re-examine the facts in order to accurately piece together the truth of our history,” she said.
Gov. McAuliffe pointed out that the Loving case is part of a “chain” linked to the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the right of same-sex couples to marry. Same-sex marriage became legal in Virginia in October 2014.
“We would never have had marriage equality two years ago had it not been for Mildred and Richard Loving,” Gov. McAuliffe said to applause.