For Black History Month on Valentine’s Day 2018, I’m showing my love for Mildred Loving (1942-2008). She’s often overlooked in the pantheon of African American trailblazers celebrated in February.
However, in ruminating on this political era where African American civil rights are under constant assault, and the erosion of LGBTQ rights are contested under the guise of religious liberty, I give Mildred Loving a double shoutout for the catalyst she was in both interracial and same-sex marriages in this country. It’s her shoulders I, and so many others, stand on when it comes to marriage equality.
But in this Trumped-up Supreme Court era there is aggressive talk among Christian evangelicals of walking “Obergefell v. Hodges” back without disrupting another precedent on marriage, Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza wrote in the article “The End of Gay Rights” in the June issue of Pacific Standard Magazine.
“The Supreme Court can significantly undermine LGBT rights even without reversing a single case. Right now, the federal prohibition against sex discrimination doesn’t bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; the Equal Protection Clause affords no specific protections for LGBT people, as it does for members of groups defined by race or nationality.” Buckwalter-Poza wrote. “The Court can strip the rights to intimacy and marriage of their meaning, carving away gradually and masking the magnitude of changes by phrasing them in arcane legal terms.”
Bermuda, in the last week, has just recently stripped the rights for same-sex intimacy and marriage with domestic partnership. It is the first national territory to repeal it. And, it has been done in less than a year. LGBTQ Bermudans on the island and around the world celebrated the legalization of marriage equality in May 2017.
While we are not denizens on this British island, it will, however, embolden our opponents, especially religious conservatives here and abroad to push for the same. “Conservatives have been intent on pushing the domestic partnership law in order to keep the term “marriage” nearly exclusive to heterosexual couples,” Metro Weekly reported.
LGBTQ activists will keep their eyes on Bermuda as well as here. In this country “Loving v. Virginia” decision affirmed the freedom to marry as a “basic civil right” of every American.
On June 12, 1967, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote for the court stating the following:
“Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival. … 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.”
Loving understood the interconnection of struggles, and while not an activist who belonged to an organization she passionately realized through her own experience of not being joined in matrimony to the love of your life. Lending her support to our same sex marriage fight, Mrs. Mildred Loving wrote the following:
“When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, 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,” Loving wrote.
” I am proud that Richard’s and my name are 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.”
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!