By / Nov 17

The recently released film Loving tells the true story of an interracially married couple who were banished from their home state because of a racist law—a law which was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court. Here are five facts you should know about Loving v. Virginia, one of the most important marriage and civil rights rulings in American history:

1. Miscegenation (from the Latin miscere, "to mix" and genus, "kind") is a term first introduced in the 1800s to refer to marriage or cohabitation between two people from different racial groups, especially, between a black person and a white person. Laws against such interracial relationships, known as anti-miscegenation laws, were first introduced in Virginia in 1691. Numerous other states added such laws over the next 222 years: Maryland (1692), North Carolina (1715), South Carolina (1717), Delaware (1721), Louisiana (1724), Tennessee (1741), Georgia (1750), Kentucky (1792), Indiana (1818), Alabama (1822), Mississippi (1822), Florida (1832), Missouri (1835), Texas (1837), Arkansas (1838), California (1850), Utah (1852), Nebraska (1855), Nevada (1861), Oregon (1862), West Virginia (1863), Colorado (1864), Idaho (1864), Arizona (1865), Oklahoma (1897), Montana (1909), North Dakota (1909), South Dakota (1909), and Wyoming (1913).

2. Although 14 states repealed their anti-miscegenation laws between 1948 and 1967, the law was still being enforced in Virginia, the home state of Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man. The Lovings were married in Washington, D.C. in 1958 but lived in Central Point, Virginia. Five weeks after their wedding, they were at home in their bed when the sheriff’s department, responding to an anonymous tip, entered the couple’s bedroom. The Lovings were arrested and jailed for several days for violating the Virginia law, the Racial Integrity Act. On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pleaded guilty and were sentenced to one year in jail. The trial judge suspended the sentence for a period of 25 years on the condition that the Lovings leave and not return to Virginia together for 25 years. He stated in his opinion that:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

3. The Lovings appealed the decision, and in a unanimous decision the U.S. Supreme Court overturned their convictions on June 12, 1967. The court ruled that Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In his opinion, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote:

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.

4. After the Loving decision invalidated the remaining anti-miscegenation laws in sixteen states, interracial marriages began to steadily increase. In 1970, only one percent of all marriages included couples of different races. But by 2013, a record-high 12 percent of newlyweds married someone of a different race, and 6.3 percent of all marriages were between spouses of different races. According to Pew Research, of the 3.6 million adults who got married in 2013, 58 percent of American Indians, 28 percent of Asians, 19 percent of blacks and 7 percent of whites have a spouse whose race was different from their own.

5. In the 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court and referred to the Loving decision nine times as part of a justification for legalizing same-sex marriage. Defenders of traditional marriage, however, have repeatedly denounced this analogy between interracial marriage and same-sex marriage. As Glenn T. Stanton has said,

Loving v. Virginia struck down a legal regime, peculiar to certain parts of the nation, that was wholly racist at its core. As the court observed, the Virginia law was about “the absolute prohibition of a ‘white person’ marrying other than another ‘white person’.” It was about nothing more than the racial purity of whites and all the ugliness that implies. If the Loving analogy is exact, we would have to conclude that our current laws on marriage as a male/female union stem from some effort to keep others in their place. Study the anthropological origins of marriage for as long as you want and you will find nothing of the sort.

By / May 1

Daniel Patterson: Welcome back to the Questions and Ethics program with Russell Moore. I’m Daniel Patterson, and Dr. Moore, today we have a question from a listener who sent in and said, “I’m engaged. We are an interracial couple, but we are dealing with parents who disagree strongly with our engagement.” How would you counsel them to deal with a situation like that?

Russell Moore: Well, I mean the first question that I would have is do they disagree with the engagement because they are an interracial couple? It may be that—I mean that question could mean that they disagree with the engagement for other reasons, and you would want to say what are those reasons? So, if the parents are saying we disagree with this marriage because we don’t think that the person you are marrying is of good character, well, you ought to take that into consideration. If the parents are saying we disagree with this engagement because you are not willing or capable to support yourselves. We don’t trust that. Well, then that is something to take into consideration.

But if their objection is because you are interracial—which is what I’m assuming is the case—then the way I would handle that is first of all to recognize your parents are wrong in this. And the people who would object to an interracial marriage on the basis of Bible verses are misinterpreting the Bible verses to the point of textual harassment. The scripture never forbids interracial marriage. What the scripture forbids are the Israelites marrying the foreign women of the Canaanites because of the pull into idolatry. That is not what is happening in an interracial marriage. The equivalent is marrying outside of the faith.

And the same thing is true when we look at what the scripture speaks about this—we have Moses, a Semitic man, marrying a Cushite woman. And the problem in the scripture is with Miriam when she starts murmuring against, and the people who start murmuring against Moses for that sort of marriage. The problem is not with Moses.

So, your parents are in the wrong on this if they are using Bible verses in that way.

They are also wrong if they are using that old chestnut of an argument well, it’s going to be really difficult for you and really difficult for the children. You have parents who are making things difficult on you. They are using bigotry in order to keep you away from bigotry. That’s a nonsensical sort of an argument.

I think the way that you need to handle this is you have two conflicting principles here—honor father and mother, and leave father and mother and cleave to one another and become one flesh. Now, honor father and mother is not unlimited. That does not mean unlimited submission to parental authority for the rest of your life, obviously. Scripture speaks in strikingly different terms from that. And so the leaving the father and mother in this case is going to mean saying to your parents I am disappointed in you that you have this bigoted view toward my future husband or wife simply because of ethnicity. And if your parents or parents-in-law are Christians, I think it’s a good opportunity to call them to repentance on that and talk about the sort of carnal divisions that they are making that are not made in scripture.

And then you have to say, if this is the person that God has given to you and this is someone who meets all of the other qualifications for marriage, then I think you need to say this is our family, Mom and Dad. And so, if you have a problem with her or you have a problem with him, then you have a problem with me.

Now, this happens often in interracial marriages. It happens often in—I’ve seen it happen often in interracial adoptions. And sometimes you have parents who are so steeped in their bigotry that they never come out of it. And in that case that’s a sad reality that you are going to have to be willing to contemplate. But often I have seen parents who because of the presence of this marriage or this child or from the marriage these grandchildren who come about, they have hearts that are softened and they turn around. They do repent. And we have to give people room to repent of sinful attitudes and sinful expressions.

And so, you can firmly talk to your parents and say we are going to marry. We want you to be supportive of this, but if you are not, then you need to know that that is because of a spirit of hatred in your own heart. And we are here and we are ready to receive you back whenever you want to come back. But say that firmly, but say that graciously and with a spirit of expectation that the Lord can turn that around. That would be how I think you ought to handle that.

Patterson: Thanks for joining the Questions and Ethics program. If you have a question you’d like Dr. Moore to answer, email it to [email protected]. Join us next time when we help you apply the gospel to the pressing issues of the day.

By / Feb 13

NOTE: The 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit will address “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation” to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families, and their churches. This event will be held in Nashville on March 26-27, 2015. To learn more go here.

Trillia Newbell and her husband, Thern, discuss their marriage and the Lord’s faithfulness to them.

Trillia serves as the Consultant for Women’s Initiatives. She is a contributor to the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Desiring God, and The Gospel Coalition.

By / Dec 30

NOTE: The 2015 ERLC Leadership Summit will address “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation” to equip Christians to apply the gospel on these issues with convictional kindness in their communities, their families, and their churches. This event will be held in Nashville on March 26-27, 2015. To learn more go here.

Trillia and Thern Newbell share how their interracial marriage points to the beauty of the gospel.

Trillia is serves as the Consultant for Women’s Initiatives. She has a degree in political science from the University of Tennessee and is an author and freelance journalist. She is a contributor to the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Desiring God, and The Gospel Coalition.