Opinion/Commentary: The facts behind loving, law, and ‘Loving’

Posted in Articles, History, Law, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2016-11-13 21:44Z by Steven

Opinion/Commentary: The facts behind loving, law, and ‘Loving’

The Daily Progress
Charlottesville, Virginia

Jeff E. Schapiro, Politics columnist
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia

Focus Features via AP
Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga protray an interracial couple from Virginia whose romance and marraiage made history. The story or Richard and Mildred Loving is told, Hollywood-style in the movie “Loving.”

In 1963, Bernie Cohen, a lawyer in Alexandria, was representing Richard and Mildred Loving, a mixed-race couple from Virginia facing a predicament considered unthinkable today: They’d been banished from the state for 25 years for violating its prohibition on interracial marriage.

Living in Washington, D.C., where interracial marriage was legal and where they were wed in 1958, the Lovings wanted to return home, to rural Caroline County. To get there would require a long journey through the courts.

Having lost the initial challenge in state court, Cohen consulted with his constitutional law professor at Georgetown University, Chester Antieau. He introduced Cohen to another former student, Phil Hirschkop.

Cohen and Hirschkop were alike: Both were Jewish boys from Brooklyn who had settled in segregationist Harry Byrd’s Virginia. They also were liberals, committed to racial equality and social justice at a time when both could be scarce, especially in the American South.

It was Cohen’s and Hirschkop’s different legal backgrounds — the former was a trial lawyer; the latter, a civil rights lawyer — that would bring them together for the successful battle that concluded with a 1967 ruling by a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court voiding Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute and those of 15 other states.

The decision allowed the Lovings — he was white; she was black — to openly live out their days in Caroline County.

Ahead of the 50th anniversary of a ruling on marriage equality that would presage the Supreme Court order legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015, a new film by Jeff Nichols, the writer-director, recounts the couple’s ordeal…

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