‘We could have been arrested’
Among the growing number of mixed-race couples documented in the survey are University of Notre Dame graduates Matt and Cheron Merten, of South Bend.
The couple — Matt, 33, from Minnesota, is white, and Cheron, 26, a Chicago native, is black — married on June 12, 2010, 43 years to the day after the Supreme Court declared state laws banning marriage between people of a different race, known as anti-miscegenation laws, unconstitutional.
The couple, who attended the university at the same time but did not meet until after graduation, said they feel fortunate to live during a time of increased acceptance of interracial marriage.
“For the most part we feel blessed to live in the generation we live
in,” said Matt, who is an instructor and director in the Department of
Music at Notre Dame.
“Thirty years ago, this couldn’t even have happened,” said Cheron, the activities manager at the Kroc Center in South Bend. “We could have been arrested and put in jail for wanting to be man and wife.”
Not that it has not been difficult. Cheron, for example, said she lost a friend because of her decision to marry Matt.
“He made a comment, he said, ‘I don’t know why you can’t stick to your own kind,’ and that was pretty hurtful,” she said of the person, whom she no longer talks to.
Prior to Loving v. Virginia, a number of states, including all of the former slave states and Oklahoma, still outlawed marriage, and in some cases even cohabitation, between people of different races, labeling it a felony in most cases.
Interracial couples in Indiana could not legally marry until 1965.
The Loving case actually dates to the late 1950s.
In 1958, police in Virginia arrested husband and wife Richard and Mildred Loving for violating the state’s law banning marriage or cohabitation between people of different races.
The couple, both residents of the commonwealth, wed in nearby Washington, D.C., to avoid the law, but then returned to the state to live.
The judge in the case sentenced the couple to one year in prison but suspended the sentence on the condition that they leave the state and not return for 25 years.
The Lovings complied, but later filed a motion to have the judgment vacated on the grounds the anti-miscegenation law violated the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Supreme Court eventually agreed, and in 1967 issued a judgment declaring state laws banning marriage or cohabitation between people of different races unconstitutional.
Despite that, such laws remained on the books in South Carolina and Alabama until 1997 and 2000, respectively.