June 12 marked the 51st anniversary of Loving vs Virginia, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared any laws against interracial marriage, in all 50 states, unconstitutional.
In 1958, Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in the District of Columbia. The Lovings were entirely unwelcome in their home state of Virginia after the wedding; they were charged with violating the state's anti-miscegenation statute, which banned all interracial marriages.
The Lovings were found guilty and sentenced to a year in jail, but the trial judge agreed to suspend the sentence if the Lovings agreed to leave the state of Virginia and not return for 25 years.
The couple and their lawyers took the case to the Supreme Court, a legal process that upended their lives — as well as the lives of their three children — for almost a decade.
The court's 1967 ruling concluded that Virginia's ban on interracial marriage violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, invalidating all state laws that banned interracial marriage.
To celebrate the watershed moment, we asked our readers to tell us why Loving vs Virginia still matters today, and to share the one word that describes their marriage. See what they had to say below.
"The one word I'd use to describe our marriage is 'enduring.' At the end of the day, with the ups and downs, we know that we are in this forever.
"It wasn't too long ago that my family wouldn't have been possible. Recognizing and acknowledging that love is love regardless of what you look like is important for the next generation." -- Severina, who lives in Texas with her husband, David, and their daughter
Emily Wehner Photography
"Our word would have to be 'passionate.' Not only about each other but passionate about loving others, passionate about life, passionate about making a difference. Our marriage is much bigger than the two of us.
"Without the Lovings, our marriage wouldn’t be possible. That’s the obvious answer. But in today’s day and age, we all need the reminder that love is worth fighting for, and the Lovings proved that. The hope that love can really conquer all. And that is always worth celebrating." -- Madelyn Musyimi, who lives in Indianapolis with her husband, Sammy
"The word I'd use to describe us is 'soulmate.' I love my husband because he loves me for me; through my flaws, my quirks and everything in between. He’s my soulmate and my best friend.
"Love is love. On Loving Day, it's important to remember everyone deserves the right to love whomever they choose." -- Rachel Scholz, who lives in Washington state with her husband, Matt
"The word that charges to my psyche when I think of our marriage is 'unfolding.' Our days are always producing different layers and experiences. Most days are filled with many priceless experiences, and others can be not so favorable in today’s society. We choose to focus our energies on building our future filled with opportunity and living with the purpose of keeping equality alive.
"On Loving Day, we honor the Lovings and every individual who devoted their lives to giving us the truly priceless ability to let our hearts decide who we love." -- Frilancy Hoyle, who lives in Seattle with her husband, Michael Patrick
"What I love about Beth is her genuine kindness toward all humans, her silly spirit and her continuous drive to be the best version of herself, all of which she uses to love all of who I am now and all of who I’ve yet to become. This is such a pivotal time in our history; it's nice to celebrate." -- Samantha Watson, who lives in North Carolina with her wife, Beth
"The word that describes our marriage is 'support.' Zach and me have been together since we were 22, so the emotional growth in the last 11 years has been tremendous. We are both the adults we are today because of the unconditional support we both provide for each other. We created a safe space for growth. We are both fully invested in the emotional success of each other and our marriage has blossomed because of it.
"Loving Day is important because it demonstrates the power of love and unity. What the Lovings did was tremendously brave, and I am personally a byproduct of their bravery. Without them, I may not exist or at least my parents wouldn’t have been able to freely and openly raise me. It’s important that as we move forward in this country we remember where we came from and ensure that history does not repeat itself." -- Zoila Darton, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Zachary, and their son
Christy Tyler Photography
"The word I'd used to describe our relationship is 'blessed.' We are blessed to have found each other and blessed in the work that we do together as a family.
"We think that it is so important for people to see that we are just a normal couple, and to see the beauty in life when two people combine their own experiences and see one another for who they truly are and not just as labels." -- Christy Tyler, who lives in Chicago with her husband, James, and their two sons
Photo Courtesy Of David Levesque
"The word that describes our relationship is 'dedication.' We are dedicated to each other since the first time we met, we have the same goals, dreams and we work as a team towards what we want to achieve.
"On Loving Day, it's important to show the world your love and to expose them to something different and break stereotypes and prejudice. People are often scared of the unknown, but if they see it enough, it becomes more accepted, understood. We support people that live in countries where their love is illegal. Until everyone is free to love who they want, it will be important to celebrate diversity in love!" -- David Levesque, who runs the YouTube channel HueDavid with his husband, Huey Tran
Photo courtesy of Kathryne Pope
"The word that sums up our relationship is 'partnership.' It may sound cheesy, but our relationship has always been a partnership.
"It is important to still remember and celebrate Mildred and Richard on Loving Day because if society forgets the history of sacrifice, conflict and hatred related to the fight for legalized interracial marriage, the continued struggle for equality gets simplified. We must commemorate Loving Day not just for the statement about love embodied in the decision, but the darkness in our country that required such a decision in the first place. It is important to have a day to remember times when people who loved each other were not able to be together because of hatred and bigotry, a struggle which, as the Supreme Court reminded us recently
, continues today." -- Kathryne Pope, who lives in New Jersey with her husband, Justin
Wade Chi Photography
"Our word is 'triumph.' The odds were against us, but we are proving people wrong every day.
"My wife, Veeda, and I just celebrated our third anniversary, and at least once every few weeks we look at one another and say, 'I can’t believe we’re married.' We were born into very different backgrounds but grew up just miles apart. My wife is Muslim and the daughter of Afghan refugees, while I am Protestant and Irish. Our families have a strong religious faith, and it made our engagement and marriage difficult at times; some family have even severed ties with us. Veeda and I realize how blessed we are to live in such a diverse community, but at the same time understand that there are others who aren’t so lucky.
"Loving Day is a time to not only celebrate those who paved the way before us but to show our families, friends and society that our love matters more than bigotry or misunderstanding. Hopefully, our marriage will be an example to our future children and the younger generation in the family that it doesn’t matter who you pray to, where you were born or the color of your skin, that love is love." -- Brian, who lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Veeda
"'Loyalty' is the word that sums up our marriage. We are loyal to each other in every way -- not just faithful. We stay true and honor each other's feelings, aspirations, hopes and the kind of human beings we want to be. We know without a slice of a doubt that we are in each other's corner, dedicated." -- Scott Burton, who lives in Connecticut with his wife, Nicole
"Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the landmark Loving v. Virginia decision that overturned laws prohibiting interracial marriages. I posted a pic of Scott and me all hugged up poolside. I wanted to show that love is love. Love is real. It's powerful and as necessary as air. Now more than ever, and specifically in the U.S.— during these heartbreaking, harrowing times with intolerance and ignorance bubbling up in every corner — we need to mark these moments, celebrate them, and also remember where we (not too long ago) came from and how much father we still have to go." -- Nicole
Photo courtesy of Sade Jones
"If I could only use one word to describe our marriage it would be 'accepting.' We are great at accepting each other’s flaws and shortcomings. We are accepting of how the other shows and receives love. We are accepting of each other’s dreams and endeavors. There are no expectations with us, which leaves us open to giving all of ourselves to each other.
"Loving Day is important to celebrate because without their bravery I would not have the opportunity to live the life I have. In 2018, I think we have become an all-inclusive generation, which is great. In a world that likes to stand for so many things, it’s important to not forget the stances people made before us, for us." -- Sade Jones, who lives in California with her husband, Stephen
Photo courtesy of Derek Needham
"The word I'd use to describe our marriage is 'happiness.' It's important to celebrate Loving Day in 2018 because there is so much divide going on in the world. We want people to see love always wins at the end, no matter what race a person comes from." -- Derek Needham, who lives in New York with his wife, Michelle Needham
"I'd use the word 'balance' to describe our relationship. Not only do our personalities balance each other's out, we also see each other as equals, making our relationship and parenting decisions together.
"Unfortunately, not enough in our society has changed since Loving v. Virginia, and we still have work to do in this country. It shouldn't have to be something that is celebrated since it should just be part of everyday life. However, celebrating something because of love is not something we do enough." -- Ashley Reth, who lives in Portland, Maine, with her husband, Terry Reth
"The word I'd use to describe our relationship is 'dedication.' We met in college 10 years ago, have been together for eight and married for four. We were different people at each of these different stages of our lives, but we've never lost sight of our commitment to each other as individuals, as friends, and as partners.
At its heart, the Loving decision was about equality and creating a more inclusive society, by overturning laws that had arisen out of racist ideology. While the public perception of interracial marriage has come a long way since this landmark case, we have to acknowledge that there is still a lot more ahead of us in the fight for equality.
"Loving Day is a reminder that our ability to marry is the result of this long struggle, and that we should not take these things for granted." -- Suzanne, who lives in California with her husband, Jason
Matt Pilsner Photography
"The word I'd use is 'whole.' Our lives are full of ups and downs, and we are two imperfect people choosing to give our whole selves to loving one another every day.
"It is important to celebrate Loving Day and mixed relationships in 2018 because the Lovings' story shows that love wins and that the determination of one couple can change a nation. The Lovings' courage and resiliency is an inspiration to us all to stand up against any type of injustice." -- Tawana Lewis-Harrison, who lives in New Jersey with husband Mark Harrison
Jerry Bullock Photography
"The word I would use to describe our relationship is 'genuine.' We have always been able to be our most authentic selves in the nine years we've been together.
"People don't realize how recent the struggle for civil rights was. It's important to acknowledge those who have come before us -- often struggling along to way -- and paved the way for us to live the lives we choose." -- Alison Smith, who lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Sean
"The word I'd use to describe us? 'Warriors.' We've gone through several seasons of transition through our 11+ years of marriage and remained a solid team through them all.
"At the risk of sounding cliche about Loving Day, it's important to recognize and celebrate the simple power of love. Two people who just wanted to be left alone to love their family fought for that right and changed it for us all. Neither my husband or I were intentionally seeking to be in a 'mixed race' relationship, but we, too, simply found each other and fell in love. I'm grateful to not fear consequences such as jail time as a result. The ruling in that case happened like 5 minutes ago! As much as people want to argue that racism is no longer real or happened lifetimes ago, we've had to explain a reality to our children that existed not long before Mommy was born. Giving honor to those who've paved the way for change is worth the acknowledgment and the celebration." -- Marquita Lanier, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, TJ, and their two kids
Christina Houser Photography
"One word that best describes our marriage is 'devotion.' We've been together 23 years, married for 17, and we've been through it all: things that could have broken us, but we held on to each other because of our love and our commitment to the vows we took 17 years ago.
"It's so important to continue to celebrate the Lovings and mixed-race couples. It's rare that a couple who looks like us is featured in TV shows or commercials. It happens, but not often enough. When it does happen, many times it's met with strong public backlash. The more visibility and celebration we can bestow on mixed-race relationships, the closer we will get to true acceptance." -- Erin Stearns-Chanterelle, who lives in Connecticut with her husband, Jerry, and their two kids