Virginia Is For Lovers (But Not YOU, Of Course Not YOU)
"Virginia is for lovers."
That’s Virginia’s official tourism motto, and it has been for decades. You’ll see it just about anywhere you go ‘round the Commonwealth (for we are, indeed, a “commonwealth” and not a “state”). You’ll see it on bumper stickers, on t-shirts, on posters, on signs. The motto has even been put on the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame.
The motto was adopted in 1969—which is a scant two years after the U.S. Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia. That’s the case that struck down Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws, where “anti-miscegenation” is just a fancy, polite-sounding, legalese word for “we’re a bunch of racist a-holes who don’t want white folks and people of color to be able to marry.”
Which is to say, it was illegal for white folks to marry brown folks in Virginia—and many other states—until 1967. That ain’t that long ago. My mom was in late high school in 1967.
Richard and Mildred Loving didn’t even get married in Virginia. They went to D.C. to get their marriage license. But just being interracially married was against Virginia law. Here’s a little bit of Mr. and Mrs. Loving talking about their heinous, heinous crime of falling in love and getting married:
So, yeah. “Virginia is for lovers.” Because the U.S. Supreme Court made us.
The story gets even better, though, and by better, I mean worse.
A fella named Harry L. Carrico was a Virginia Supreme Court Justice at the time the Lovings’ case came to the Virginia Supreme Court, and he wrote an opinion upholding the constitutionality of the anti-miscegenation statutes and affirming the Lovings’ criminal convictions.
Now, this was racist, and this was wrong, and this was pretty much as far from justice as one could get. You’d think Carrico’s name would be mud, after that. But naw.
He got to be Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court. The Virginia State Bar—of which I am a member in good standing—named its friggin’ annual professionalism award after Carrico. Indeed, when I became a barred attorney in the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2009—2009, this was!—I was required, as a newly barred member, to participate in the Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Course.
Not a word about “Loving v. Virginia” was breathed during the entire course. But heaps of praise was poured onto Carrico for his gosh-darn-golly-gee professionalism. You can make one of the wrongest, most evil jurisprudence decisions in the 20th century as long as you’re polite about it, see.
And that ain’t even getting into the Marshall-Newman Amendment of 2006, which still causes me to see red and fight back tears every time I think about it …
The short version of all of this? I spit and mutter a curse every time I see “Virginia is for lovers” on a bumper sticker or t-shirt. It’s nothing to me but a cruel joke told by people who either don’t know or don’t care what a joke it is.
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- professorpiggy said:This is sad, interesting stuff. Thanks for sharing, DB - some things shouldn’t be forgotten.
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- iamkickingtelevision said:Of course when I “like” this, I’m liking the righteous indignation. And yes, it’s utterly shameful and depressingly common, though I appreciate your perspective.
- abalidoth said:…wow. I got a bumpersticker with that on it when my wife and I went to VA for our honeymoon. I didn’t know any of this. Now I feel kinda sick. o.o
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