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Community Advocacy Organization

Loving Day Led the Way

Updated: Jun 20, 2022


By Matt and Sarah Thornton


The 1967 court ruling ‘Loving v Virginia’ - which came to be known as 'Loving Day' - outlawed 16 discriminatory law-making practices for couples like us and marked the first critical legal step forward for interracial marriage. This landmark decision has led the way to change and acceptance as decades have passed. 'Loving v Virginia’ - which came to be known as 'Loving Day' - outlawed 16 discriminatory law-making practices for couples like us, and marked the first critical legal step forward for interracial marriage. This landmark decision has led the way to change and acceptance as decades have passed. - which came to be known as 'Loving Day' - outlawed 16 discriminatory law-making practices for couples like us, and marked the first critical legal step forward for interracial marriage. This landmark decision has led the way to change and acceptance as decades have passed.‘Loving v Virginia’ - which came to be known as 'Loving Day' - outlawed 16 discriminatory law-making practices for couples like us, and marked the first critical legal step forward for interracial marriage. This landmark decision has led the way to change and acceptance as decades have passed.'Loving v Virginia’ - which came to be known as 'Loving Day' - outlawed 16 discriminatory law-making practices for couples like us, and marked the first critical legal step forward for interracial marriage. This landmark decision has led the way to change and acceptance as decades have passed.‘Loving v Virginia’ - which came to be known as 'Loving Day' - outlawed 16 discriminatory law-making practices for couples like us, and marked the first critical legal step forward for interracial marriage. This landmark decision has led the way to change and acceptance as decades have passed.


We spent time reflecting on our own story and had the chance to connect with 2 other local couples kind enough to share their experiences. This particular milestone and a couple of interviews contained in the article deal with black and white relationships, but this victory is for all races. Each story is unique, but the collective similarity is that these couples all chose the principle of love over law.


The Nicholsons

Courtesy Photo-The Nicholsons


“When my husband told his friends he was getting married, most of them faded away except one; they are still close.

We lived in Colorado at that time. My family was in Michigan. We called to tell them that we were coming, so they could meet Clement and that we were getting married, so we could discuss arrangements with them. At that point, my dad just handed off the phone. As we got closer to get the date, my mom told me that she was OK with us getting married, but she worried about any children that we would have. My response was that we would love them and celebrate them so much that it wouldn't matter. Naive on my part, but we have beautiful, smart, resilient, successful adult children. I don't think I was prepared for the discrimination that they would also face from black children. We chose to move to Lansing because it was diverse and put them in Lansing Schools, yet they dealt with their share of colorist issues. I hope the strength of our marriage set an example.

Our son's wife is Hmong, and even though he knew the family for a long time when it came to marriage, he was met with hesitancy from some of her family. He is now very much a part of their family. Clement's family was more ready to welcome me in and seemed supportive, perhaps because this wasn't the first interracial marriage in the family. His father's cousin was married to a white woman. After Clement's mother died, his dad married a white woman. His dad told him that I was a "keeper" because I was smart. He also said that it wouldn't be easy and that Clement should be prepared that my family may only know black people from what they have seen on TV. I grew up in a very rural part of Michigan, and there were 2 black families and 1 Mexican family in my town. My family came to love Clement very much and fully embraced our children. My dad loved taking them places, especially fishing.”

Ms. Melina Brann, Mr. Owen Waltmire

Courtesy Photo-Ms. Melina Brann, Mr. Owen Waltmire


“‘Loving day’ was named so not only as an honor and reference to the couple, but also to represent the love that we give to each other. The relevance the case has today is quite chilling. Among nationwide protests against racism and police brutality and the overturning of Roe V Wade and the possibility of overturning other rulings, it illustrates how even over half a century after the Loving decision and other historic civil rights milestones, the toxic residue of Jim Crow across the centuries continues to make its way into our communities and people’s lives. It’s remarkable how much can change but at the same time it doesn’t,” says Melina.

” Thankfully we live in a region where it is not out of the norm for us to be together, I can’t imagine what it would be like if not,” Melina states. “Owen is the most supportive partner I have ever had, and he just happens to be white. It is an important ruling for not only my personal relationship, but for my family; both of my parents were alive when Loving v. Virginia was ruled, and they married each other 20 years after the ruling as an interracial couple.


“It does help me feel and be more conscious about Melina’s needs in situations. Like overall, it’s important to be conscious about those things, but this really shines a light on it,” Owen says. “I know that I am privileged because I don’t have to think about it as much, but I am thankful that my family accepts and celebrates us as we are.”



The Thorntons


Courtesy Photo-Matthew and Sarah Thornton


Sarah- “My experiences with interracial relationships date back years. I didn’t subscribe to the stigma growing up as a person that was attracted to another person’s energy and had not yet been properly educated on the numerous civil rights injustices that impact so many black lives. Naive- and full of love for all humans that wanted it- I just felt that if I didn’t make a home for racism in my own life, it didn’t impact me or my other half because it wasn't a thing. Turns out it most definitely was a thing, though. “


“I didn't really hone in on the numerous undertones of public prejudice until Matt and I became exclusive. The 2 main most obvious demographics throwing shade at our personal lives are generally young, black females and old, white men. The females, in observance, have appeared disapproving and most of the males, are just afraid. They visually stare as if we are sewn together. A full-length stare from a young pharmacy worker when we asked her where the pregnancy tests were located in the store, and a middle-aged man in a bar asking me if ‘everything is okay’ because Matt (my own date) approached me at the bar…. I could go on, but that would be throwing good energy after bad.’


Matt - Growing up with my mom and the Thornton side of my family, interracial dating was never a big deal. Actually, my aunt (RIP) at one point decided she only wanted to date young white men and my cousin to this day only dates white women. I casually dated women of all races, but always thought that I would end up with someone black. Until I met my PIC.


The Thornton side instantly swarmed Sarah and the older kids with love. Doing everything to make them feel like they were part of the family. Sarah's mom, dad, and both of their families have always welcomed me and made me feel like I belonged. Was ready to introduce her to my dad, and the Barker side that I did have a relationship with is where I found the most static. Questions that I hadn't been asked or even considered. My sister said, "The closest thing to a white girl you should bring around here is an Italian." That slowed me bringing Sarah around since I don't see them on a consistent basis. No one from that side of my family came to our wedding. Dating outside my race before, I didn't notice the differences in interactions in the world until Sarah and I became serious.


My true self-consciousness came from taking my now-grown stepchildren places solo. In the back of my mind, preparing to explain away why I have two blond hair, blue-eyed kids, and an older tan kid in tow. Trying to work miracles when out shopping, trying to keep the peace. Or a Hooters waitress younger than me comment about my infant daughter, "Mixed babies are so cute." Or the look of occasional surprise when my kids point me out as their father. Sometimes I'm curious about the choices that they will have to make because of their heritage later in life.


Now just 55 years after the Loving Day decision. America has transitioned from 4% of the populous feeling interracial unions were ‘morally acceptable’ in 1958, to nearly 87% in 2018. Progress has been made in the world’s melting pot, but it feels a bit like a backhanded victory. Legislation shouldn’t have to ‘undo’ racially motivated prejudice. Who we share a piece of ourselves with should never be dictated by any bureaucracy, democracy, or controlling governmental body. Today, always remember to love freely and love proudly, because it isn't promised like most things in this existence, but when you find that love it needs to be protected with all of your being. Wherever and with whomever you discover it.


For more information on Loving Day, please visit www.lovingday.org


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