In 1959, only four per cent of Americans supported the idea of interracial marriage – that is, a marriage between people of different races. Today, the United States has its first biracial president. The father of President Barack Obama was from Kenya. His mother, a white American, was from the state of Kansas. One recent study found that 87 per cent of Americans now approve of interracial marriage.
In New York City the number of people who approve of interracial marriage is probably higher than 87 per cent. The city’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, an Italian-American male, is married to Chirlane McCray, an African-American female. They are the parents of two biracial children. But interracial couples were not always welcome in the country. In 1958, a Virginia couple, Mildred and Richard Loving, were arrested for violating a state law banning interracial marriage.
THE SUPREME COURT
So has motherhood changed her life?
“Society has become more accepting of it – although we still get strange looks sometimes,” says Gerri Buchanan. She and her husband, Tom Rogers, have been married for five years. Both of them have children from earlier interracial marriages. They are one of a growing number of multiracial families in New York City. Political observers say New Yorkers like the fact that Bill de Blasio is part of a mixed family. They say the family is partly responsible for his strong victory in local elections last November.
Ken Tanabe created a celebration of interracial families called Loving Day on June 12th. It is named in honour of Mildred and Richard Loving (see box). Ken Tanabe says Bill de Blasio’s election shows New York City is changing: “It’s always been a diverse place, but there are more and more couples that are interracial and, with the election of Bill de Blasio, I think there is more and more acceptance and support for those families, couples and individuals.“ Some people say Mayor de Blasio, his wife and children represent a new America.
Mildred and Richard Loving (below) got married in Washington, D.C. in 1958. They didn’t know that interracial marriage was illegal in their home state, Virginia, and they were arrested on their return. To avoid prison, they moved to Washington, D.C. They wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who referred the case to the American Civil Liberties Union. On June 12th 1967 the Supreme Court heard the case of “Loving v. Virginia” and ruled in favour of the young couple. The Lovings returned to Virginia, where they lived with their three children. Loving Day is not an official holiday, but people want President Barack Obama to change that.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in at least 18 American states and the District of Columbia. The federal government also recognizes same-sex marriages. That is good news for gay and lesbian couples, who are now busy making plans to get married, and for the photographers, hotels, restaurants and other businesses that are happy to help them celebrate the big day.