In 1959, the state of Virginia convicted Mildred and Richard Loving for committing a felony, sentencing them to one year in jail. The trial judge, however, suspended the sentence on the condition that they stay out of Virginia for 25 years. What was their crime? They had the audacity to marry the year before in D.C. and then return to their home state, which outlawed marital unions such as theirs. Mildred was black, and Richard was white. The couple took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Popular opinion was not on their side. A 1958 Gallup Poll indicated that only 4% of Americans approved of marriage between blacks and whites. Indeed, black-white married couples endured insult and injury based on a common belief that such unions were unnatural and immoral. Nevertheless, the Court ruled unanimously (9-0) in 1967 (Loving v. Virginia) that state laws proscribing interracial marriage were unconstitutional. Found in this ruling is the following quote: The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men (and women- my addition).
New Hampshire, known for its tenacious commitment to personal liberty, embraced the spirit of this 1967 ruling when it became the sixth state of the union to legalize same-sex marriage. This decision reflects a country that has grown more accepting of civil rights for all. Currently, only a minority of Americans disapprove of interracial marriage. American approval of same-sex marriage is also on the rise. According to Gallup, support for same-sex marriage increased from 27% in 1996 to 44% in 2010. The Pew Research Center recently documents that a clear majority of young adults support same-sex marriage, portending greater acceptance in the future.
As the first colony to declare its independence well over 200 years ago, New Hampshire continues to be intolerant of oppressive laws and unnecessary government intrusion. It is hard to imagine this state changing course and going down a path that curtails freedom. Please contact your state representative and senator and let them know that everyone in New Hampshire deserves to live free and equal and that same-sex marriage should remain legal. Note that the views in this letter do not reflect the views of Keene State College.
M. Therese Seibert, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology at KSC