Plaintiff in Loving v. Virginia, landmark case on interracial marriage, supports gay marriage
The plaintiff in Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 landmark court case that resulted in striking down laws banning interracial marriage, spoke out for marriage equality for lesbians and gays during a press conference on Tuesday, June 12, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the ruling.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “‘wrong kind of person’ for me to marry,” Mildred Loving said. “I believe all Americas, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry.”
Loving went on to say that she was honored to be a part of the struggle for marriage equality for all.
“I am proud that Richard’s and my name are 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,” she said. “I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving are all about.”
This comes just days after the announcement that New Hampshire will now offer civil unions for lesbians and gays, a move that some critics are saying is good but not enough like Kathryn Omarkhail, whose commitment ceremony to her partner Denise Bennett was featured in “Truths & Transformations,” documentary that had its world premiere at last month’s QCinema, the Forth Worth gay and lesbian film festival.
After Omarkhail and Bennett had a commitment ceremony in June 2005 attended by their friends and family in Texas, it was personally important to them to be married legally in another venue.
“It was key to us to have the marriage certificate with female-female on it and to be recognized in that way by some government entity,” Omarkhail said.
“Even though it might not be recognized in the Lone Star State, that added a seriousness and official tone to our vows which we both felt was necessary.”
When the two were deciding where to hold their legal wedding, they immediately ruled out the only state to offer full-fledged marriage rights, Massachusetts, because it had a residency requirement at the time. They were also quick to cross off the then-three other states, including the District of Columbia, that offered civil unions.
“We ended up getting married in Canada because a civil union wasn’t good enough,” Omarkhail said. “It is still people saying we are less than, and I don’t think I should be told because of my sexual orientation that I am not worthy of calling myself married.”
But the issue of civil unions versus marriage is not just an issue of semantics.
Last week, with the release of New Hampshire’s news, GLAD updated the “Marriage and Civil Unions: What’s the Difference?” section of the organization’s Web site. In it, they outline 10 key differences between the two, despite the fact that legislators in New Hampshire promised that the civil unions would have the same rights and responsibilities as marriage.
The differences start with the portability of rights. Marriage is automatically recognized in all states that don’t have a specific guideline in their constitutions that marriage is between a man and woman only. Civil Unions have no guarantee of recognition, whether or not the constitution defines who can be married.
Three other differences listed fall under this problem: medical decisions in times of emergency, rights to divorce and spousal and child support after a divorce. All three of these are not guaranteed outside of the state where the civil union took place.
The next four biggest issues deal with taxes. Both gifts and inheritance from one partner to another are fully taxed by the federal government under civil unions. Under marriage they are not. Also on the federal level, the couple must file their tax returns individually; an act that has the possibility of costing the couple large amounts of money. Plus, under civil unions, when one partner dies, there is no continuation of payment of social security and veteran death benefits, like there would be with marriage.
The ninth difference deals with immigration benefits. Under marriage, U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents can sponsor their spouse and other family members for immigration into the country. Under civil unions, they do not have this right.
Finally, the tenth difference deals with the wording itself. GLAD says that marriage “is the ultimate expression of love and commitment. People understand and respect it.” Whereas, “civil unions are unfamiliar. People don’t understand them or know how to treat them.
It was this final point that swayed Omarkhail and Bennett from entering into a civil union.
“It’s a step forward, but it is still discrimination, Omarkhail said. “I figured people would have learned by now that separate but equal just doesn’t work. We won’t be happy until everyone has full marriage rights, just like Ms. Loving is advocating.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 15, 2007.