Looking Back at Loving v. Virginia: The 50th Anniversary of a Landmark Case

By Bettmann/Corbis via New York Times retrieved on September 17, 2008, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13624396

Bettmann/Corbis via New York Times

When Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving started dating in the early 1950s, the idea that their relationship could change history could not have seemed more remote. When they decided to marry, Richard knew plenty of other people in Central Point, Virginia, had skirted the same legal barriers that stood in their way. Those Central Pointers had always been able to resume their lives afterward with no controversy or consequence. He and Mildred expected the same for themselves.


Loving v. Virginia upset one of the last strongholds of segregation.


Instead, Mildred and Richard would become the subject of numerous books and articles, a made-for-TV movie, a documentary, and a feature film, as well as the plaintiffs in a landmark Supreme Court case that turns 50 today. Their reluctance and modesty, even as their legal battle took on national significance, were captured in what Richard told LIFE Magazine in 1966: “[We] are not doing it just because somebody had to do it and we wanted to be the ones. We are doing it for us.”

An Illegal Marriage

Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter met in 1950, seven miles from Central Point, at a farmhouse where the seven-member Jeter Brothers were staging a bluegrass show. Richard loved listening to bluegrass. That night, however, it was not the performers, but their younger sister, Mildred, who captured his attention. Mildred was a few years his junior and known for being shy and soft-spoken. She thought Richard seemed arrogant at first, but her impression changed as she got to know the kindness he possessed. The two dated for several years, often spending time together at the racetrack, where Richard and two close friends won numerous trophies with a race car they maintained together.

What would have otherwise been a familiar story of romance in rural, 1950s America was complicated by race, at a time when segregation was deeply entrenched. Richard Loving was white, of Irish and English descent, and Mildred Jeter was black, as well as part Cherokee and Rappahannock. For Richard and Mildred, though, Central Point provided an unusually safe space, one that stalled the expectation that their relationship could invite legal troubles. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

Won the popular vote by more than 2 million. Just sayin'.

Won the popular vote by more than 2 million. Just sayin’.

I hate being the bearer of bad news. Unfortunately, it feels like I’ll be showering our dear readers with doom and gloom for the next month, as well as the full 208 weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency.

First, let’s get the worst out of the way:

  • We at Planned Parenthood are now in grave danger of being defunded. The president-elect has promised this and the Republican-controlled Congress will likely be more than gung-ho to gut us once and for all. I don’t shill for donations often (at all, really) on this blog, but if you can find it in your heart (and wallet) to help us, we and the millions of women we serve would be so thankful. (NY Mag)
  • Trump’s pick for secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, is a creep who espouses radical beliefs about “personhood,” thinks women should have no control over their bodies, doesn’t support insurance coverage of birth control, and is on the “defund Planned Parenthood” train. (The Daily Beast)
  • He’s also a Lying McLiarFace who asserts that “not one woman” ever struggled to afford birth control. (The Atlantic)
  • As of now, Hillary Clinton has trumped The Donald in total votes by more than 2 million (and counting). That isn’t a small margin. It’s “YUGE” and “bigly” (as the president-elect would say). Our soon-to-be commander in chief is not taking kindly to the news that he LOST the popular vote by such a large margin: The reckless, thin-skinned toddler in a 70-year-old body hopped on Twitter (his favorite platform) to assert that, had “millions” of people not voted illegally, he would have won the popular vote.

    First of all — this is a highly dangerous statement as there is literally ZERO evidence of “millions” of people voting illegally. However, if there were even the slightest possibility this could be true (it isn’t), how in THE WORLD can he take the giant leap to posit that everyone voting illegally voted for Hillary Clinton? Couldn’t it be equally possible that these millions of (non-existent) fraudulent voters voted for him, which calls into question whether he REALLY won the election? Funny how he only tosses out accusations of widespread voter fraud when it threatens his ability to claim victory and deem himself the winner. (NBC News)

  • Hillary Clinton wasn’t just failed by the Electoral College. Widespread voter suppression tactics (enacted by Republicans in 2010, right after Barack Obama’s history-making win — coincidence, I’m sure!) closed down at least 868 polling places nationwide and kept potentially millions of people (mostly minorities … probably another coincidence!) from voting. (WaPo)
  • Texas: Epicenter of anti-choice, anti-woman malarkey. They stay on the front lines of the War on Women! The abhorrent legislators there have decided that beginning December 19, all fetuses surgically aborted must be buried or cremated, regardless of gestational stage. Gov. Greg Abbott is claiming this measure is being taken for the “enhanced protection of the health and safety of the public.” Yet this mandate doesn’t apply to women who have miscarried in their own homes? How is this related to health and safety, then? Jeez … I’m sure their aim is not to SHAME women or make them suffer for choosing to abort, right? And I’m sure it’s definitely NOT meant to make abortion providers jump through potentially insurmountable obstacles in finding nearby funeral homes willing to provide fetus funeral services, which can cost upward of $2,000? Oh, and I must mention, Mike Pence did this in Indiana during his tenure as governor. (Broadly)
  • Speaking of vice president-elect Bad Hombre, he is practically dancing on Fidel Castro’s grave and had the gall to refer to him as a “tyrant.” Friendly reminder — Gov. Pence is the man who supported putting a woman in jail for having a miscarriage. #PotMeetKettle (ITV)
  • Could the orange menace known as Donald Trump ax our copay-free birth control unilaterally with no help from Congress? Unfortunately, yes. (Vox)
  • The megalomaniac in chief’s ultra-petty Twitter account is a frightening death spiral into madness. This man is not OK mentally, and that should terrify us all. (Mother Jones)
  • And his cabinet is a crapshow too! It’s shaping up to be the most conservative in decades. (Politico)

Speaking of Trump’s cabinet, I can’t “get the worst out of the way” until I introduce you to our future attorney general: Continue reading

The 26th Amendment at 45: Bringing More Voters to the Fight for Reproductive Rights

Image of a button showing support for a lower voting age from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History

When the question of same-sex marriage went before the Supreme Court in the summer of 2013, it was clear that millennials, the nation’s youngest adults, had already reached their verdict; 66 percent were in favor of recognizing it, putting them among the most supportive demographic groups in the U.S.

That same year, millennials were in the spotlight in another fight for social justice. Refusing to accept their university’s mishandling of sexual assault reports, two survivor activists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill fought back with federal complaints. Their activism turned up the pressure on their institution and evolved into the founding of the organization End Rape on Campus, or EROC, a networked movement against sexual assault that linked survivor activists and other advocates for change on college campuses throughout the U.S. Following EROC’s founding, supportive faculty formed Faculty Against Rape, or FAR, bringing the movement to more stakeholders in campus communities.


Young voters have the power to shape political futures.


Jennings Randolph, a Democratic member of Congress from 1933 to 1947 (and later a senator from 1958 to 1985), said the nation’s youth “possess a great social conscience, are perplexed by the injustices in the world and are anxious to rectify those ills.” With that faith in the collective power of young Americans, Randolph made it his mission, beginning in 1942, to introduce legislation that would lower the voting age to 18. Historically it had been 21. His hopes, though, would not be realized until decades later, in the 1970s.

The United States entered the 1970s bearing the toll of what became one of the longest and most unpopular wars in its history. By the time the Vietnam War ended in 1975, 2.5 million Americans had served in the conflict, a quarter of them because of the draft. More than 58,000 of them lost their lives. Continue reading

From Censorship to Insufficiency: Sex Education from the Dennett Trials to Today

In an article published the day after her trial, the New York Times described the defendant as a “gray-haired, kindly-looking matron.” When she took the stand in the Federal District Court in Brooklyn, the 53-year-old grandmother introduced herself as a maker of decorative wall hangings and an occasional writer for magazines.

Maybe it was a sign of the times that such an unusual defendant could be facing an obscenity charge that spring afternoon in 1929. The decade known as the Roaring Twenties shook established conventions as metropolitan centers like Chicago and New York became the birthplaces of modern cultural movements that pushed old boundaries. Showing disdain for the conservative dress and sexual ethos of the past, women in short hair and short skirts, dubbed flappers, were sensationalized for their cavalier attitudes toward sex. Pushing limits further, homosexuals and gender nonconformists earned nods of recognition in everything from stage productions (Mae West’s The Drag) to popular music (Edgar Leslie and James Monaco’s “Masculine Women, Feminine Men”), benefiting from a level of social acceptance that anticipated the 1960s. Meanwhile, the popularity of jazz challenged racial barriers as black and white musicians collaborated on stage and in studios, and as black and white socialites mixed in lively venues like Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom.


Mary Ware Dennett was a pioneer for sex education — both through her writing and the legal battle she fought.


Amid those changes, some people still weren’t ready for the controversial publication Mary Ware Dennett was in court for distributing, even if that publication had been well received by the medical community and, furthermore, had been sent to such tame and respected clients as the Bronxville school system, state public health departments, and various religious and civic organizations like the Union Theological Seminary and the YWCA. The publication was one Dennett had written 11 years earlier for her two sons, then 11 and 14 years old. She wrote it after realizing that, without it, they wouldn’t receive the sex education they needed: “When my children reached the age when I wished to supplement what had been taught verbally, I sought something for them to read.” After searching “some sixty volumes,” Dennett decided to give up and write her own material. Continue reading

When Metaphor Becomes Reality: The Abortion Battle and the Necessity of the FACE Act

PP entrance

Clinic escorts at a Washington, D.C. Planned Parenthood. Photo: Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño via Flickr

Serving as the medical director of a reproductive health clinic made Dr. George Tiller a lightning rod for constant vitriol — and more than once a target of violence. Picketers routinely gathered outside his clinic in Wichita, Kansas, a site of their protests because it provided abortions, including late-term abortions. In 1986, Tiller saw the clinic firebombed. Seven years later, in 1993, he suffered bullet wounds to his arms when an anti-abortion extremist fired on him outside the property. Finally, in 2009, he was fatally shot while attending worship services at a Wichita church.


Anti-abortion extremists can create life-threatening scenarios for those who seek reproductive health care.


In the wake of Dr. Tiller’s death, many reproductive rights advocates argued that his assassination could have been avoided. The shooting was not the first time his murderer, 51-year-old Scott Roeder, broke the law.

Roeder could have been stopped prior to the shooting under a federal law, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which was enacted in 1994 — 19 years ago this Sunday — to protect the exercise of reproductive health choices. The FACE Act makes it a federal crime to intimidate or injure a person who is trying to access a reproductive health clinic. It also makes it unlawful to vandalize or otherwise intentionally damage a facility that provides reproductive health care.

Roeder’s ideology was the root of his criminality. Roeder subscribed to a magazine, Prayer and Action News, that posited that killing abortion providers was “justifiable homicide.” Roeder also had ties to a right-wing extremist movement that claimed exemption from U.S. laws and the legal system. Continue reading