Board of Commissioners honors Loving Day in Multnomah County

June 13, 2013

The Board of Multnomah County Commissioners officially proclaimed June 12 as Loving Day throughout Multnomah County in honor of the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned all laws banning interracial marriage in the United States. 

Commissioner Loretta Smith brought forward the proclamation at the board’s weekly meeting on June 13, saying it is important to acknowledge the landmark Supreme Court ruling.

“The Loving Day proclamation fits into the theme that Multnomah County cares about people from all walks of life,” Smith said. “I have family members, friends, colleagues and constituents from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds who would have not had the right to legally marry their husbands and wives, if it weren’t for this ruling.“

The Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia, centered on Mildred Loving, an African-American woman and her husband, Richard Loving, a Caucasian man.

The Lovings met and fell in love in their home state of Virginia and in 1958, got married in Washington, D.C. After the wedding, the Lovings returned to Virginia to begin their married life, until authorities arrested them in the middle of the night for being in an interracial marriage, then a felony offense in Virginia.

Faced with the option of jail time, or leaving the state, the Lovings chose to move to Washington D.C., where they struggled to stay afloat.

After years of missing their life and family back in Virginia, Mildred Loving wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy asking for help. Kennedy then connected the Lovings to the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the state of Virginia on the couple's behalf.  

The legal battle eventually rose to the Supreme Court of the United States, and on June 12, 1967 the court struck down all anti-miscegenation laws banning interracial marriage in the United States.

At the June 13 Multnomah County board meeting, Ben Duncan, program manager for Multnomah County’s Health Equity Initiative, shared what Loving Day means to him personally.

“It’s reflective of my own journey and experiences growing up the son of a Jewish mother from the Bronx and an African-American father,” Duncan said. “It honors the challenge that they faced raising two biracial children in a world that is still not completely accepting. It honors my challenges growing up in a world where I consistently had to explain ‘What I am’.”

During her presentation to the board Sonali Balajee, senior policy adviser for the county’s Equity and Empowerment Lens, posed questions that Multnomah County should consider when it comes to serving residents best who come from multiracial backgrounds or are in interracial relationships.

“What barriers exist within our services and systems for folks who are in interracial or intercultural relationships?” Balajee asked. “How are we thinking about the various needs of folks who are multiracial and multicultural when we’re thinking about our planning?”

Commissioner Smith noted the parallel between the 1967 Loving v. Virginia case and the current struggle for legal same-sex marriage in the U.S.   

“Loving Day reminds us of a time when many of same arguments used against marriage equality were used to justify law that prevented people of different races from marrying,“ Smith said. “Now we wait for another monumental civil rights decision by the Supreme Court regarding Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.”