On June 12, 2011, residents of and visitors to Washington, D.C., celebrated lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride at the Capital Pride Festival. Less than five blocks away -- but 44 years earlier -- the U.S. Supreme Court met to hand down its opinion in Loving v. Virginia, a case brought by Mildred and Richard Loving challenging Virginia's anti-miscegenation law -- a criminal ban on interracial marriages.
The court -- led by Chief Justice Earl Warren -- unanimously concluded in part:
There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy. We have consistently denied the constitutionality of measures which restrict the rights of citizens on account of race. There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause.
Then, as to marriage, the Supreme Court concluded also:
Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. 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.
As David Boies concludes in a video released in celebration of the Loving anniversary by the American Foundation for Equal Rights -- which is backing the challenge to Proposition 8 in California:
Today, we salute the courage of Mildred and Richard Loving, whose efforts laid the groundwork to ensure that someday all Americans will be equal under the law.
The lawyers for AFER -- led by Boies and Ted Olson -- are due in front of U.S. District Court Judge James Ware on Monday, June 13, to address two issues in the case, Perry v. Brown. The first is a request by the proponents of Proposition 8 to toss out now-retired Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that found Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional because Walker is gay and has a long-term partner. The second is a question, also raised by the proponents, about whether the video taken of the trial should be able to be used -- by Walker or more broadly.
Julian Bond, the former chairman of the NAACP, wrote this weekend in USA Today about the connection between the two cases:
Prop 8 continues to label some Americans as second class. It denies those Americans the fundamental rights afforded their fellow citizens. Like the anti-miscegenation statutes struck down 44 years ago, Prop 8 serves no purpose but to permit one group of Americans to degrade another.
Watch the AFER video:
[Photo: The Lovings (Screen capture from AFER YouTube video).]