On June 12, 2005, Lauren Araiza’s now husband proposed to her while hiking near Lake Tahoe. But the date wasn’t random, in fact, it had great significance for Araiza, and her soon-to-be husband knew it.
On June 12, 1967, Chief Justice Warren delivered a Supreme Court opinion that the prevention of marriages between parties of different races was a violation of the 14th Amendment. The decision did away with anti-miscegenation laws, which basically meant that interracial marriages were hence considered to be legal throughout the United States. Had Araiza, a Latina, and Charlie, a white man, been born decades earlier, their marriage would have been much more complicated than it is today—had it taken place at all.
The case that broke open views on marriage was Loving vs. Virginia, and Araiza, associate professor of history and author of the forthcoming book, To March for Others: The Black Freedom Struggle and the United Farm Workers, considers it a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.
The case started its journey to the high court when Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving got married in 1958 in Washington, D.C. She was black. He was white. But when the couple headed home to Virginia, they were charged with violating the state’s ban on interracial marriage. The Lovings pled guilty and instead of serving a year in jail, they were sent out of the state for 25 years. They headed back to D.C., and by 1963 had filed a motion in state trial court, a move that, after denials and appeals, brought them to the Supreme Court and the decision that changed marriage in the United States forever.
Though the case is getting more attention these days as the battle over same-sex marriage heats up, Araiza is not the only one who believes that the importance of the case is often underrated. A group of volunteers have established June 12 as “Loving Day” and created lovingday.org, an organization that helps to plan and host Loving Day celebrations and educational events all over the world.
Araiza and her husband plan to do something on June 12 of every year to remember why the date is so important. He proposed to her on this date, sure, but they also remember that Mildred and Richard Loving helped to make that proposal possible.