Equality Forum Mourns Civil Rights Pioneer Mildred Loving

May 06, 2008, 01:00 ET from Equality Forum

    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