Loving and Cheney v. Virginia

Mildred Loving’s recent death brought to mind the courage that she and her husband Richard had when they took their case, to marry to the US Supreme Court. As an interracial couple, their marriage was prohibited in the state of
Virginia. In 1967, the Supreme Court ruled, based on the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause principles, that prohibiting marriage on the basis of race was unconstitutional.

The Loving victory in 1967 made possible the Goodridge v. Department of Public Health same-sex marriage victory in Massachusetts in 2003. On June 12, 2007, the Fortieth Anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, Mildred Loving issued a statement demonstrating her continued understanding and evolution in thinking about the power of being able to marry the person one loves.

“I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.”

Mildred Loving “gets it” about equality. But the state of Virgina still does not. In 2006, voters there overwhelmingly passed an anti-marriage and anti-relationship recognition constitutional amendment. They win the prize for one of the most hateful amendments in the US. What is it about Virgina?

As a Black woman in the 1960s, Loving had little recourse to protection through a powerful position or connections. When she and her husband lost their case to marry in Virginia, they were ordered to leave the state and never to return or travel together in the “Virginia is for lovers state.” They did not return together to their home state until 1967.

Mary Cheney, daughter of the vice president of the US, in contrast lives in an open lesbian relationship in Virginia with her partner Heather Poe and their child. Fortunately for them, as a vice president of AOL and the daughter of power, Cheney and Poe have a safety net. Something the Loving family never had.

So despite a hateful constitutional amendment that gives their family no rights or protections, Cheney and Poe can live comfortably in the “lovers state.”  Privilege can trump even the most hateful laws—usually. I think of the LGBT families living in Virginia who have no privilege and no connections to the White House.

Even without a $1 million book advance, Cheney could speak out for justice following the lead of Mildred Loving.Virginia could gain a modicum of honor and Cheney . . ..

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