Filmed in Virginia
Loving, the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, is a film about an important moment in our Commonwealth’s history.
The Lovings were married in Washington, D.C., in 1958. Five weeks later, they were arrested at 2 a.m. on July 11 in their bedroom, where their marriage certificate hung on the wall. At the time, Virginia was one of 24 states that barred marriage between races. In fact, Virginia’s law had been on the books since the 1600s. Mildred was African American and native American. Her husband was white. A judge told the couple “As long as you live, you will be known as a felon.” He suspended one-year prison sentences on condition that they leave Virginia and not return together for 25 years. This was a painful punishment for them. Both of their families had lived in Virginia for generations.
They moved to Washington, D.C., but they decided to fight for justice. That fight led them to the U.S. Supreme Court, where they won a landmark civil rights victory in 1967 that took the final group of segregation laws off the books. The unanimous opinion was written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, who also wrote the 1954 opinion declaring segregated public schools to be unconstitutional. Warren wrote in the Loving case that the ban on interracial marriage violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, and he described marriage as “one of the basic civil rights of man.” The Lovings returned to Virginia and built a home for themselves. Richard died in 1975 and Mildred passed away in 2008, one month before her 50th wedding anniversary. The Rev. Martin Luther King said, “When any society says that I cannot marry a certain person, that society has cut off a segment of my freedom.”
Loving is a significant story about our Commonwealth and our nation. It remains relevant today as a case frequently cited in the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, and as a milestone in the fight for civil rights, a fight that continues in Virginia today. Loving also is an opportunity for our Commonwealth to make it clear that we are a new Virginia that is open and welcoming for all of its citizens.