Lamoste: Love is legitimate, no matter who it’s between
Growing up, at the dinner table, I had lumpia and stuffed cabbage, pancit and potatoes.
My mom told me stories about milking cows and my dad explained how to pick ripe coconuts. My father was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the United States in the early 1970s, ending in Michigan, and my mother is a white woman born in Kansas who moved to Michigan after serving as a nurse in the Vietnam War. They met in the early 1980s while working at a Metro Detroit hospital, as he was an anesthesiologist and she was a nurse.
They taught me about much more than food and childhood stories. I learned through stories of my parents’ struggles and journeys that while the Philippines and Kansas are radically different places, some experiences are pretty universal. I will always be grateful for the relatively rare chance to have such a multicultural background. My upbringing has made me incredibly sensitive to the differences in how people behave and understand the world around them, and the importance of celebrating those differences.
Just 50 years ago, my parents’ marriage would have been illegal in many parts of the country, as many states had laws that specifically banned interracial marriage. For example, Michigan had a law stating that “no white person shall intermarry with a negro, and no insane person or idiot shall be capable of contracting marriage.” California deemed “all marriages of white persons with negroes, Mongolians, members of the Malay race or mullatoes are illegal and void.”
There is no reason that my parents, or anyone else’s, should have ever had to worry about being denied the right to marry who they love and enjoy the social, legal and economic privileges that marriage gives. My parents’ relationship wasn’t any less legitimate than anyone else’s, so why did parts of our country have laws saying just that? It’s a travesty that the United States, a country that highly values fairness and justice, had a legal regime that not only condoned discrimination and violence against those in interracial relationships, but also encouraged it.
On June 12, 1967, the United States Supreme Court finally declared in a case, aptly-named Loving v. Virginia, that: “We have consistently denied the constitutionality of measures which restrict the rights of citizens on account of race. There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause.” Simply put, the Loving case declared that laws banning interracial marriages are now unconstitutional.
On the whole, public attitudes towards interracial marriage are changing for the better. According to a Gallup poll, only 4 percent of Americans approved of interracial marriage between blacks and whites in 1958. That went up to 87 percent as of 2013, but is not yet 100 percent. For many interracial couples and families, the Loving decision is a sign that their marriages are legally recognized and protected. Thousands celebrate Loving Day every year, to the point where a campaign to turn the day into a national holiday is gaining traction.
If our Supreme Court can move to correct the shameful legal legacy that codified hatred and fear through the Loving decision, it gives me even more hope that the Supreme Court can bring justice to same-sex couples and their families. Just as I can’t understand any reason for preventing my parents from marrying legally, I can’t understand denying two women, or two men, the rights and privileges that come with marriage.
Love is legitimate, regardless of who it is between. I hope that is something that our current Supreme Court, and society at large, can see.
Liz Lamoste is a co-boss of Nerd Nite 313 and works as a lawyer in Detroit.