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Loving Day Vermont celebrates marriage equality and pushes for greater racial justice

An illustration of a Caucasian woman holding hands with an African-American man.
Vector DSGNR
Loving Day Vermont celebrations take place June 10 and June 12.

On June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state laws against interracial marriage in the United States.

That case, Loving v. Virginia, is named for Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple from Virginia who were arrested for being married.

The decision is celebrated globally on June 12 and is known as Loving Day.

The annual celebrations are meant to recognize the historic court decision, and create a day of visibility, community and education.

Sarah Brown and her husband Nicholas Glass co-founded a statewide nonprofit tied to the holiday, Loving Day Vermont.

Vermont Public's Mary Williams Engisch recently spoke with Brown about the history of Loving Day as well as the local group's goals for creating community in the state. Their conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

An adult with pale skin, short brown hair and wearing glasses stands, smiling. An adult with brown skin and brown braids, stands smiling while holding a smiling small child with brown skin and brown hair pulled back into pony tails.
Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown with husband Nicholas Glass and daughter Athalbjört Brown-Glass.

Mary Williams Engisch: Underneath that Supreme Court decision is the story of real people and their struggle to just be a married couple in the United States. Can you tell us more about Loving Day and its origins?

Sarah Brown: Broadly speaking, it's a global network of celebrations that honor the anniversary of this landmark case. Here in Vermont, Loving Day Vermont has been organizing events since 2014, bringing together interracial couples, multiracial families, multiracial individuals and just others who support the right to love who we love.

I understand the Vermont Legislature declared June 12th Loving Day in the state three years ago. How did you come to cofound Loving Day Vermont?

Just on a personal level, I had experienced a lot of opposition in my own family to our relationship. I had been doing some research, and really just wanting to learn more about the history of interracial relationships, and find perhaps others who could relate, to connect with and build community with.

My husband and I, when we moved to Vermont in 2012, I had just found out about the existence of Loving Day on a national level. The national organization really encourages anyone who would like to organize their own celebration in any corner of the world to do so.

I connected with the founder at a national level. We started small, perhaps 30 or 40 people in that first year. It's just continued to grow. We now have a planning committee that organizes alongside of my husband and has expanded our volunteer capacity. It's just been wonderful to see the level of community support that has been built over that span of almost 10 years now.

I understand too, that of the nine states that never actually had this prohibition on interracial marriage, Vermont was one of those nine states. Still, challenges exist, obviously, in the state. Can you share what some of those challenges that are unique to multiracial couples in Vermont are?

Certainly, as you've said, interracial couples and multiracial families in Vermont still face a significant amount of discrimination. Often encountering situations where, for instance, those of us with children are asked if the children belong to us because they don't look like one parent or the other.

There's also the fear just associated with the daily reality of being in a relationship. I can speak just sort of on my personal part of someone growing up in a white family who wasn't attuned to that dynamic in the early portion of my life. The fear associated with just having a family member who is Black, presents as Black or that the world will see as Black, just the concern of something happening to them on a daily basis.

That's sort of an internal challenge within our family dynamics, in some cases. But also affected by the broader world, state and community at large.

One of the things that that we're advocating for this year is stronger legislation than the 2022 Respect for Marriage Act, which would still allow states to ban interracial marriage if Loving v. Virginia were to be struck down by the Supreme Court.

While that reality is not unique to Vermont, it does create just a ripple of concern and uncertainty for Vermont couples, who recognize that their rights are not guaranteed and could be taken away at any time.

Even if it's not on a state level, if they're traveling, if they move, if they have loved ones in another state — just the fear of having those rights stripped away at any level is is concerning and unsettling.

A big part of Loving Day Vermont is to build community, as you said. What are some of the ways and the events that you're going to do that in the next couple of days?

Loving Day Vermont, courtesy

We're holding two events this year that all supporters are welcome to join us at. The Loving Day Vermont picnic at Fisher Brothers Farm in Shelburne on Saturday, June 10. We're also holding a Loving Day Vermont celebration in conjunction with an ale release at Zero Gravity Brewery in Burlington, Monday, June 12.

What are the goals of Loving Day Vermont?

Well, the community-building aspect is huge for us. Just providing a space for representation and visibility for interracial couples, multiracial families and multiracial individuals together.

By all means, our events are open to anyone, again, who supports the right to love who we love. It is really valuable to have those spaces to connect.

Those of us who can relate to one or more of those dynamics have the opportunity to connect in another way here in the state, especially being in such a predominantly white state.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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