Columns, Opinion

Minority Report: Loving won

I find few things more absurd than the belief that the races cannot and should not mix, marry or live harmoniously with one another. So when Indiana Senator Mike Braun said he supported leaving interracial marriage up to the states, I could not help but laugh. His reasoning of wanting to be consistent with states’ rights and avoid being “hypocritical” only added to the hilarity. 

Braun quickly walked back his accidental honesty, saying he misunderstood the question and reversed his position and condemned racism. 

Many took Braun’s position as a sign of regression, proof of racism’s enduring grip on the American psyche. However, Braun’s rapid retraction was a sign of progress for me. 

55 years ago, the Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia. The case details are unbelievable in our modern, multicultural United States. 

Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter were an interracial couple that got married in Washington, D.C. and then went back to Virginia — where the couple was from and where interracial marriage was illegal. 

Five weeks after the Lovings wed in 1958, a sheriff showed up at their house in the middle of the night to arrest them for the felony of getting married to a person of another race. What a ridiculous thing racism is.

Smaran Ramidi / DFP Staff

The Lovings pleaded guilty and were sentenced to one year in prison before the judge suspended that sentence in favor of a 25 year banishment from the state of Virginia. That’s right. The judge ordered them to leave Virginia and not come back for 25 years as their sentence. 

The Virginia judge’s opinion is quoted in Loving v. Virginia and deserves a spotlight so as to be sufficiently mocked.

“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 judge wrote. 

And so the couple spent their exile in Washington, D.C., an uncivilized locale that permitted interracial marriage. Eventually, Mildred Loving got the ACLU to take the case in 1963, which began its long march toward the Supreme Court in 1967. 

In a unanimous decision, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws — miscegenation being a dated term for interracial relations — violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause. Furthermore, Warren wrote the law had no purpose “independent of invidious racial discrimination.” Warren cited Hirabayashi v. United States which argued, “distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people.”

However, as much as Braun’s remarks may lead someone to say America’s disapproval of interracial marriages has not changed, the Loving case—and its aftermath—proves the contrary. 

In 1967, when the Loving Case was decided, three percent of newlyweds had an interracial marriage. In 2015, that number was 17%. 

I think an illustration from my life best describes American progress on the issue. When my parents were born, around 1960, roughly 4% of Americans approved of interracial marriage. When they got married in 1984, a majority of Americans did not approve of interracial marriage. When I was born in 2000, about 65% of Americans approved. In 2021, 94% approved. 

All of that took place in my parents’ lifetime and an almost 30% approval increase took place just in my lifetime. 

Interracial marriage is a beautiful repudiation of racists and their toxic notion that the races should not live beside or with one another. My parents fell in love going to movies, watching baseball and attending Iowa Hawkeye games together, not thinking incessantly about which continent their ancestors came from. 

Of course, I recognize individuals might still have racist thoughts about their son or daughter marrying someone of a different race. However, as a matter of policy, the issue is hardly discussed in our current times.  

When someone raises any doubts about interracial marriage as policy, they are quickly dismissed — as in Braun’s case. And to be even more clear, Braun received universal backlash just for suggesting states would be allowed to decide about interracial marriage, never mind actually opposing the practice. 

We should recognize and appreciate the progress that’s been made on a very important issue — love — in just the past 55 years. When some fool in Washington tries to back track and is corrected, take solace in the immediate and universal backlash. It’s a sign that we are not regressing to an ugly past but have already arrived at a more accepting, progressive and loving present. t


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