ON THIS DATE in 1958, eighteen-year-old Mildred Loving and her husband, Richard, were arrested for violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, which disallowed mixed-race marriages — she was African American and American Indian, he was white. Mildred spent several days in jail before the couple pleaded guilty. Under a plea bargain, their one-year prison sentences were suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return together or at the same time for 25 years.
The Lovings moved to Washington, D.C., where they had three children, but they missed their friends and family in Virginia. In 1963, Mildred wrote to attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, asking for help. He referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union, which took their case to court. Speaking to lawyer Bernard S. Cohen, Richard Loving said, “Mr. Cohen, tell the court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”
On June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws requiring separation of the races in marriage.
When the Lovings married in 1958, 24 states disallowed mixed-race unions. In 2000, Alabama became the last state to remove its miscegenation — the interbreeding of people considered to be of different racial types — law. Today, June 12 is celebrated by many U.S. couples as Loving Day.
In 2007, one year before her death, Mildred Loving issued a statement urging that gay men and lesbians be allowed to marry.