Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Farewell to a Great American

When you think of the Civil Rights Movement, mostly likely Mildred Loving is not one of the first names that comes to your mind. That's unfortunate. Ms. Loving was one of the great pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement and her legacy lives on in the United States. She died yesterday at age 68. In 1958, Mildred -- an African American woman -- married Richard Loving, a white man, in their home state of Virginia. It was a bold move. It also was a violation of a Virginia law banning interracial marriage. The Lovings challenged the ban by waging a long, lonely legal battle against it, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Slowly, their case worked its way up to the United States Supreme Court. In 1967, the highest court in the land announced its decision: the Virginia law violated the United States Constitution. It was a great victory for Civil Rights, one that occurred underneath the public radar, obscured by destructive race riots in cities such as Detroit and Newark.

Mildred Loving's life after the Supreme Court decision was not an easy one. Richard died in a fatal car crash in 1975. Their son, Donald, passed away in 2000. But Mildred lived life to the fullest and adored her two children and numerous grandchildren. And until the day she died, she humbly denied any heroism on her part.

On the fortieth anniversary of the Supreme Court's historic Loving vs Virginia ruling, Mildred said, "Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me."

Mildred and Richard Loving have inspired gays and lesbians across North America who are fighting for their right to marry legally. There are plenty of reasons to be proud of America. Mildred Loving is one of them.

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