June 15, 2007

Mildred Loving Endorses Marriage Equality for Same-Sex Couples


Shortly before yesterday's landmark vote in which the Massachusetts legislature endorsed marriage equality by a 151-45 vote margin, Mildred Loving, one of the plaintiffs in the landmark racial marriage equality case Loving v. Virginia, endorsed equal marriage rights for gay and straight couples:

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God's plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

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.

Writing on Huffington Post, Bernard Cohen and Evan Wolfson compare the nation's experience with Loving to the continuing debate over equal marriage rights for gay couples:

In 1991, three same-sex couples likewise challenged their exclusion from marriage. After a thorough trial in 1996, Judge Kevin Chang found that denying gay people the freedom to marry recognized in Loving as a "basic civil right" serves no legitimate government purpose. The state constitution was subsequently amended to prevent the courts from ordering marriage licenses. Nevertheless, the Baehr case launched a nationwide, indeed international, discussion that led to the 2003 marriage equality by the Massachusetts high court and the first same-sex couples marrying in that state. The Massachusetts court cited Loving and Baehr, as have courts and legislators in the other places that have ended marriage discrimination, including South Africa, Spain, and Canada.

When the U.S. Supreme Court got Loving right, the polls showed 70 percent still opposed to interracial marriage. Imagine the injury to our nation if the Court had flinched, or if the opposition had prevailed with arguments like "let the people vote" or attacks on "activist judges," and had cemented discrimination into our Constitution, as in Hawaii.