Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Loving Story

I recently attended a special screening of the documentary film The Loving Story, which featured a Q&A session with Janet Maslin of the New York Times and Nancy Buirski, the director and producer of the film. The film tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in 1950s Virginia, whose eventual landmark Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia, changed history.

Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter fell in love and got married. When word of their marriage reached the local police, they were roused from their beds at four in the morning, and taken to the local jail. Their crime? Interracial marriage; Richard was White and Mildred was part Black, part Cherokee. Their punishment? A year in jail, but the judge suspended the sentence because they agreed to leave the state. After years of heartache, exiled from their home and family, Mildred reached out to a young Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, who directed them to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and so began their struggle for the most basic of rights, the right of an individual to love and marry the person of their choosing.

Mildred Loving passed away in 2008, but on June 12, 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision of Loving v. Virginia, she issued a rare public statement which spoke in part to same-sex marriage rights battle of today. Mildred Loving said: "I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."

The facts of the story are compelling and the film itself moving, all the more so because it is told in the Loving’s own voices. The film features incredible black & white footage of interviews with Richard and Mildred in their home, their children, and the young ACLU lawyers who took on their case. A timely and relevant film, especially given the current civil rights struggles of today to make marriage legal for same sex-couples. The Loving Story is a great film that both enlightens on how far we've come as a nation, and no matter what your beliefs or opinions on the civil rights issues faced today, it is sure to bring about dynamic discussion and debate which can only make for a more informed and civil public discourse.