The Lovings are a true American love story. A white country boy who grew up down the road from a little black girl, fell in love with her and decided to marry her. Boy meets girl doesn’t get any better than that!But due to the fact that they found love in the 1950s, in the South no less, their marrying resulted in a felony charge and time in jail.
In order to bypass the Racial Integrity Act, which criminalized miscegenation, Mildred and Richard drove eighty miles from their home state of Virginia to Washington, D. C. to be married by a minister they’d picked out of a phone book.
Upon returning to Virginia, the happy couple settled back into life with their marriage certificate proudly tacked to their bedroom wall. However, after less than two months of wedded bliss, an anonymous tip sent the local sheriff to the happy couple’s home where they were arrested and charged under Section 20-58 of the Virginia Code, which prohibited interracial couples from being married out of state and then returning to Virginia, and Section 20-59, which classified “miscegenation” as a felony punishable by a prison sentence of between one and five years.
After Richard spent one night in jail and a pregnant Mildred five, the Lovings pleaded guilty and were sentenced to one year in prison, with the sentence suspended for 25 years, if they left the state. Heartsick but with no other choice, the Lovings packed up and moved back to Washington D.C.
After a few years and two children later, the couple became homesick and wanted to move back to Virginia closer to family and friends. But knowing they would be facing a jail sentence, Mildred sat down and penned a letter to Robert Kennedy who referred her to the ACLU. Who on their behalf, filed a motion in the state trial court to vacate the judgment and set aside the twenty-five year sentence on the grounds that the violated statutes ran counter to the Fourteenth Amendment.
While preparing their motion, the couple’s lawyer, Bernard Cohen, remembers Mr. Loving advising him to, “Tell the court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”
Despite his honest declaration, the state courts wouldn’t budge. Eventually, the Lovings case went all the way to the Supreme Court. And after eight long years and many setbacks, the U.S. Supreme Court on a 9-0 vote decided in favor of the Lovings on June 12, 1967 !