Yuko Tamura, a member of a Brazillian drum group called Bloco Do Sol, leads the dancing as community members gather at Parque de los Pobladores in San Jose, California, Saturday, June 10, 2017, to celebrate the city’s first “Loving Day.” The event marked the 50th anniversary of Loving vs. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that determined state bans on interracial marriage are unconstitutional. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)
SAN JOSE — Just over 50 years ago, it would’ve been illegal for Jeremy Wang to marry his wife, Alicia, because they’re a mixed-race couple.
That isn’t lost on the 39-year-old Chinese-American, who, on Saturday, led dozens of community members in celebrating San Jose’s first “Loving Day.” The national event marked the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, a landmark Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage across the United States, deeming state bans against mixed-race marriage unconstitutional.
The 1967 case focused on 17-year-old Mildred Jeter, who was black, and her childhood sweetheart, 23-year-old Richard Loving, who was white. The couple challenged Virginia’s laws banning marriage between blacks and whites.
“Too few people know about this,” said Wang, who organized the grassroots event largely on his own over the past year with the help of a few volunteers. “My hope is to educate and share the beauty of diversity, multiculturalism. Everybody has a story, everybody has a perspective and it’s valid.”
The event at Parque de los Pobladores in downtown San Jose included cultural and dance performances, remarks by local community leaders and politicians, activities for kids and a small resource fair. For the interracial couples who attended, the event was an opportunity to reflect on their freedom to marry, while honoring those who fought hard for that freedom just 50 years ago.
Rosemary and John McGuire of Palo Alto said they felt as if Sunday’s event was meant for them.
John and Rosemary McGuire, of Palo Alto, and other community members gather at Parque de los Pobladores in San Jose, California, Saturday, June 10, 2017, to celebrate the city’s first “Loving Day.” The event marked the 50th anniversary of Loving vs. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that determined state bans on interracial marriage are unconstitutional. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group)
The mixed-race couple — Rosemary, 77, is black and John, 80, is white — said they couldn’t find an apartment as newlyweds in San Francisco in 1960. Nobody would rent to them, they said, because Rosemary was black. Ultimately, John went to look for an apartment on his own and immediately found a place, according to the couple.
Today, the McGuire’s have five children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They’ll celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary in September.
“People need to understand marriage and what it means to love each other and have children. We’re human,” said John McGuire.
In 2015, 17 percent of all U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, marking more than a five-fold increase since 1967, when 3 percent of newlyweds were intermarried, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
One-in-ten married people in 2015 – not just those who recently married – had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, according to Pew, which means an estimated 11 million people were intermarried.
“It’s amazing how far we’ve come in what is really a short period of time,” said Matt Walsh, who attended Saturday’s event with his wife, Erin Kimura-Walsh and their two kids. Matt, who’s in investment services management, is Irish-American and Erin, who works in student services at Santa Clara University, is Japanese-American.
“When my parents got married, it wasn’t legal for different races to marry. And now here we are, essentially 50 years later. It’s really become commonplace for people of different races to marry. That’s what makes America great and we need to celebrate these things, especially at this time in our country,” Walsh added.
Robert Loving died in a car crash in 1975. He was 41. Mildred, his wife, died of pneumonia in 2008 at age 68.