PHILADELPHIA, May 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In 1958, Mildred Jeter, a black woman legally married Richard Loving, a white man in the District of Columbia. They returned to their home in Virginia. Under a Virginia law enacted in 1662, blacks and whites were prohibited from marrying. In 1967, in the case of Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down miscegenation laws that prohibited blacks and whites from marrying as a violation of the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause. "Equality Forum mourns Mildred Loving. She is a civil rights pioneer and a historic American. Richard and Mildred Loving championed the right of each citizen to marry the life partner of their choice," stated Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of Equality Forum. In 2007, on the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, Mildred Loving issued a statement urging that gay men and lesbians be allowed to marry. In 1958, the county sheriff and two deputies broke into the bedroom of newlyweds Mildred and Richard Loving. They were arrested for violating Virginia's Racial Integrity Act. Their prison term was suspended on the condition that they not live in Virginia and that they not return at the same time to Virginia for 25 years. There were 38 states in the 20th century that had miscegenation laws. In 1948, the California Supreme Court was the first state to judicially overturn a miscegenation law. Previous judicial attempts to overturn miscegenation laws were unsuccessful. In 1967, when Loving v. Virginia was decided there were 16 states that had miscegenation laws. Under miscegenation laws, children from interracial marriages were considered illegitimate and spouses and heirs could not receive inheritance rights or death benefits. When the Lovings challenged the miscegenation law, Virginia Judge Leon Bazile upheld the Racial Integrity Act by stating that if God meant for whites and blacks to mix, he would not have placed them on different continents, and by Judge Bazile branding the Lovings as felons. Acting on the advice of then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy the Lovings sought the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU took the case from an unsuccessful result in the Virginia Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court. Equality Forum is a national and international GLBT civil rights organization with an educational focus. Equality Forum undertakes high impact initiatives, coordinates GLBT History Month, produces documentary films and presents the largest annual national and international GLBT civil rights forum.
SOURCE Equality Forum