Video: Courtesy of HBO
Since the dawn of the fight for same-sex marriage rights, supporters have pointed to "Loving v. Virgina" as a direct example of America's history with marriage discrimination. The 1967 Supreme Court case legalized interracial marriage by overturning a Caroline County, Virginia judge's ruling that prohibited the union of Richard Perry Loving and Mildred Loving. Now, 45 years later and at the height of the LGBT civil rights debate, the Lovings' journey takes on a new perspective in director Nancy Buirski's HBO documentary, "The Loving Story," airing on February 14—un-coincidentally, Valentine's Day during Black History Month.
As a white man and a woman of Africa-American and Native-American descent, the Lovings violated their state's Racial Integrity Act of 1924, even though they married across state lines in Washington, D.C., where interracial marriage was legal. The Lovings' one-year jail sentence was suspended on the condition that they not return to Virginia for 25 years, which they fought down with the help of attorney Bernard Cohen, a volunteer with the American Civil Liberties Union.
"The Lovings have the right to go to sleep at night knowing that if should they not wake in the morning, their children would have the right to inherit from them," Cohen argued in the case. "They have the right to be secure in knowing that, if they go to sleep and do not wake in the morning, that one of them, a survivor of them, has the right to Social Security benefits. All of these are denied to them, and they will not be denied to them if the whole anti-miscegenistic scheme of Virginia... [is] found unconstitutional."
Coinciding with the release of The Loving Story, photographer Grey Villet's photo essay about the couple—originally shot for LIFE magazine—is on display at the International Center of Photography in New York City through May 6. —Phillip B. Crook