Happy Loving Day!
I had never heard of this holiday celebrated on June 12 before I started researching holidays to note on the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy desktop calendar. This holiday is one in which Oklahoma should certainly rejoice.
Loving Day recognizes the allowance for interracial marriage in the United States, which has been legal in all U.S. states since the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia rendered on June 12.
The Court held that "anti-miscegenation” laws were unconstitutional. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the court opinion that “the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.”
This court ruling overturned an Oklahoma state law adopted before statehood, first passed in 1897, which expressly prohibited a white person from marrying “any person of African descent.” Since the Supreme Court handed down that decision on June 12, every year on that day, “Loving Day” has been celebrated across the nation.
Interracial marriage has happened since before the United States was even contemplated as a nation. Pocahontas, a Native American, married English tobacco planter John Rolfe in 1614. The first legal black-white marriage in the United States was that of African American professor William G. Allen and a white student, Mary King, in 1853. When their plans to marry were announced, Allen narrowly escaped being lynched. Their marriage was conducted secretly, and they left the country immediately for England never to return.
Through the years, as segregation laws and practices grew, it took a systemic change to alter that course through the passage of historic civil rights laws by Congress. This particular change to allow equality in marriage based upon race did not happen until the unanimous Loving ruling on June 12, 1967, by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Public approval of interracial marriage rose from around 5% in the 1950s to around 80% in the 2000s. The proportion of interracial marriages is markedly different depending on the ethnicity and gender of the spouses. The proportion of interracial marriages has been increasing since 1967. As of 2010, 15.1% of all new marriages in the United States were interracial.
All states experienced an increase in the percentage of interracial and interethnic married-couple households from 2000 to 2012-2016. Oklahoma had a 14% rate of interracial marriage between 2008 and 2010. Nearly one-fifth of Oklahoma’s 723,000 married households in 2010 included partners of different races, according to Census figures.
As of 2012, 17.2% of married households include interracial couples in our state, compared to 14.8% in 2000. This percentage made Oklahoma the state with the second-highest rate of interracial marriages in the nation just behind Hawaii.
We will soon know the updated numbers when the Census Bureau completes the 2020 Census on October 31 and compiles the data. Please be sure to submit your information if you have not at this point. These numbers matter, and as you can see, Oklahoma is already a “top ten” state in something that matters: finding your partner in marriage regardless of the skin color or race.
Joe Dorman is CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, an advocacy network that provides a voice for the needs of children and youth in Oklahoma, particularly those in the state’s care and those growing up amid poverty, violence, abuse and neglect, disparities or other situations that put their lives and future at risk.