Why is June 12 called 'Loving Day?'

FILE - Richard Perry Loving, a white construction worker and his African American wife, Mildred, are pictured. (Credit: Getty Images)

June 12 marks "Loving Day," the anniversary of the United States legalizing interracial marriages. 

"The Loving Decision should be remembered as an important moment for civil rights. But it’s also a part of a much longer and broader history of standing up to the structural inequities and racist attitudes that we must continue to dismantle today," the Loving Day official website, reads. 

Take a look back at the historic case and how interracial marriage is viewed in America today. 

Loving v. Virginia

On June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down, as unconstitutional, 16 state bans on interracial marriage. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by Richard and Mildred Loving, a White man and Black woman who had been convicted for illegally being married to each other. 

Their home state of Virginia didn’t recognize the marriage. The couple had avoided a year in jail by agreeing to a sentencing mandating, "both accused leave Caroline County and the state of Virginia at once, and do not return together or at the same time to said county and state for a period of 25 years."

The couple then lived in exile in Washington, D.C. 

The frustrated young wife had written to then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who referred her to the ACLU for help returning to their Virginia home permanently. The ACLU stepped in and represented the couple in the landmark Supreme Court case, "Loving v. Virginia." The court then ruled that state bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional, according to the non-profit organization.

After the court’s decision, the Lovings lived quietly in their native Virginia with their three children until Richard’s death in a 1975 car crash. Mildred, critically injured in that same crash, never remarried and largely shunned publicity. Mildred died in 2008 from pneumonia, according to the Caroline County website.

FILE - Marriage license of Richard and Mildred loving. CREDIT: National Archives

FILE - Marriage license of Richard and Mildred loving. CREDIT: National Archives

Interracial marriage in America

Since then, the Lovings’ legacy continues to live on as interracial marriage has become far more accepted than it was since the landmark decision.

In a 1958 Gallup poll, only 4% of Americans approved of a marriage between a Black and a White person.

The most recent poll conducted in 2021, however, found that 94% of adults in the U.S. approve. 

The number of interracial marriages has also grown. 

According to a 2017 Pew Research Center study, 39% of American adults said the growing number of people marrying someone of a different race is good for society, up from 24% in 2010.

Data collected by Pew Research found that while the overall share of married adults has declined in the U.S., interracial or interethnic marriages have become more common and gradually increased from 4% in 1970 to 16% in 2021.

The Associated Press and Chris Williams contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.