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Commitment and honor

Loving, based on 1967 court case, depicts how strong a committed marriage can be, regardless of race

Edgerton and Negga Focus Features

Commitment and honor
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In the landmark interracial marriage case Loving v. Virginia, a unanimous Supreme Court declared that “the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual.”

Loving, a film based on the 1967 case, depicts just how strong a committed marriage can be.

Richard and Mildred Loving (played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga) wed in 1958 after Mildred realizes she is expecting their first child. Their isolated Virginia community tolerates interracial romances—as long as they remain out of wedlock.

“It’s God’s law. The sparrow with sparrow, the robin with robin,” says the sheriff who bursts into the Lovings’ bedroom to arrest them soon afterward. (This nonexplicit scene, a few instances of language, and other thematic elements give the film its PG-13 rating.)

Miscegenation laws were widespread across the American South and were linked, regrettably, with corrupt readings of the Bible. The Lovings face a dire sentence: Divorce, go to jail, or leave the state for 25 years. It takes nine years—and the help of the ACLU—for the Lovings to earn the right to live in peace.

That they stay together is a testament to their commitment. Throughout the film, friends and relatives push for their divorce. When the couple is about to flee their home, we see Mildred playing with her wedding ring, but she never takes it off.

Both Edgerton and Negga give award-worthy performances as a couple thrust unwillingly into the spotlight. Edgerton is the shy builder who just wants to raise a family. Negga is the humorous, spunky wife who seeks justice.

In a post-film interview, producer Ged Doherty suggested that Mildred and Richard stay together because they love each other. But romance alone cannot carry marriages through dirty looks, prison sentences, and exile.

“[Marriage] is made honorable by faithful couples who are committed to each other for life,” the justice of the peace reads during the Lovings’ wedding ceremony. Commitment and honor under a God-ordained covenant is what makes a marriage endure, no matter what color.

Rikki Elizabeth Stinnette Rikki is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD contributor.


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