Rev Irene Monroe

A Love That Knows No Bounds

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | February 14, 2008 1:45 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: African-American, inter-racial marriage, LGBT community, Loving v Virginia, marriage, marriage equality, Mildred Loving, same-sex marriage, sheroes, Valentine's Day

On this Valentine's Day, I am reminded of no greater challenge to marriage equality than same-sex marriage. However, the precedent for same-sex loving.jpgmarriage was set by an African American woman named Mildred Loving (1942- ) who I am honoring as one of my sheroes for Black History Month.

Mildred Loving gained notoriety when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in her favor that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional.

Loving's crime was then this country's racial and gender obsession - interracial marriage.

Married to a white man, Mildred Loving and her husband were indicted by a Virginia grand jury in October 1958 for violating the state's "Racial Integrity Act of 1924."

The trial judge stated the following to the guilty couple:

"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 shows that He did not intend for the races to mix."

The trial judge suspended their sentences on the condition the Lovings leave Virginia and not return to the state together for twenty-five years. The Lovings initially agreed and left, but soon after returned, and decided to fight their case.

On June 12, 1967, Chief Justice Earl Warren delivered the opinion of the Court:

"Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. 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. These convictions must be reversed."

Since the beheading of St. Valentine in Rome in the year 270 A.D., marriage has been controlled by church heads and heads of states and not by the hearts of lovers. When Emperor Claudius II issued an edict abolishing marriage because married men hated to leave their families for battle, Valentine, known then as the "friend to lovers," secretly joined them in holy matrimony. While awaiting his execution, Valentine fell in love with the jailer's daughter and in his farewell message to his lover, he penned "From your Valentine!"

May the "Loving -spirit" of Mildred and the justice acts of St. Valentine be with us on this day.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!


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Michael Bedwell | February 14, 2008 2:41 PM

Thank you, Rev. Monroe. On the 40th anniversary last year of that perfectly named ruling, "Loving v. Virginia," the now-widowed Mildred Loving was quoted as saying,

"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."

Their case was brought up again last night in San Francisco during the fourth anniversary celebration of the gay and lesbian marriages Mayor Gavin Newsom tried to empower in 2004. [The first hearings on its Constitutional issues begin before the California Supreme Court on March 4—or “March Forth!” as one of the women who missed getting married by mere minutes before the marriages were stopped put it.] A moving documentary about those history-making days, "Pursuit of Equality-The Unfinished Work of American Freedom," was shown. The first of several times I teared up was when it showed a deaf lesbian couple getting married under the magnificent dome of SF's City Hall Rotunda [the same building in which Harvey Milk and George Moscone were murdered]—a signer translating the vows for them being read by SF's nongay, Asian woman City Clerk [she performed the first—and initially secret—marriage of icons Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin].

I'm sending copies of the documentary DVD to the LGBT student center at IU, and anyone interested can purchase their own copy at http://www.pursuitofequality.com/ [For the record, I have no connection with it other than the interest of seeing its example witnessed by as many as possible, beyond our own community especially.]

Being reminded of the Loving case was but the first reason I thought of Sen. Obama last night. Gay CA Assemblyman Mark Leno [who has gotten marriage equality legislation passed twice only to have Arnold deceitfully veto it twice] never mentioned him but he asked the rhetorical question of any straight married person who says civil unions or domestic partnerships are just as good as marriage—“Would you trade yours for mine?”

It is not enough to simply say that Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton both do not support marriage equality. I cannot forget that he brings to the subject two facts, two intimate life experiences, that she does not.

1. Despite being a man who talks frequently and has written a book about how much his faith means to him, Sen. Obama chooses to oppose the position of his own denomination, the United Church of Christ, which, unlike Sen. Clinton’s denomination, supports marriage equality.

2. Sen. Obama’s own parents, prior to the Supreme Court decision, could have been sent to prison for their interracial marriage.

Mildred Loving gets it. Why doesn’t Sen. Obama?

I am ashamed to admit I had to look up anti-miscegenation.
Good reading, though.

Thank you for the lovely post Rev Monroe. Your words and reminder are a gift to us all.

It is sad to see the inevitable anti-Obama comment as the very first response to your post.

As an openly deacon in the United Church of Christ I am proud of our denomination's stance in favor of full marriage equality for same gender couples.

I am also a proud supporter of Senator Obama.

Within the United Church of Christ we accept that all of us are on a journey and are at different places on that journey.

Senator Obama was warmly welcomed as a keynote speaker at our 50th anniversary synod last summer.

I do not appreciate digs being made at Senator Obama in the name of the United Church of Christ.

More than this, I am offended by anyone lecturing Senator Obama on what he should do or believe as a bi-racial person or because of who his parents are.

I believe such judmentalism and mean spirited attacks do nothing to foster understanding, enhance reconciliation, or move us toward being a more just society.

Yours in Christ,

Deacon Charles Keener, Lincoln Temple United Church of Christ, Washington DC

Wow, I didn't know the original story of St. Valentine!

How come no one's naming their kids Valentine anymore in America?