On June 12, 2016, as our nation reeled from the horror of the hate inspired gun violence in Orlando, Florida, over 100 people in El Cerrito found some solace in our first official city observance of Loving Day, commemorating the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision in Loving v. Virginia which recognized the legal right of individuals from different races to marry.
This decision was cited in 2015 when SCOTUS decided in favor of the plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges allowing two individuals of the same gender to marry.
The serendipitously eponymous Loving decision gave us the opportunity to celebrate love, to declare our abhorrence of intolerance, and to specifically denounce the hate crime that took place last February in El Cerrito (http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Amid-city-probe-El-Cerrito-woman-says-she-was-6862206.php).
ECDC member Rochelle Okimoto was convinced that Loving Day should be observed; she submitted a resolution to the California Democratic Party (CDP) that was adopted in August, 2015 (http://www.cadem.org/our-california/resolutions/2015/loving-day-resolution), and was instrumental in making Loving Day an official event in El Cerrito. She is a member of the Human Relations Commission, and part of its mission is to recognize the racial, ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of the community.
The Loving Day movement was started in 2004 by then-graduate student Ken Tanabe in New York to recognize the day that the United States Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Loving v Virginia that outlawed bans on interracial marriage in the United States. Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple, were married in 1958, but the following year were sentenced to a year in jail for violating a Virginia law forbidding such a relationship –their simple act of love. Their sentence was suspended on condition that they leave the state, which they did, moving to Washington, D. C. They then determined to fight this ruling, in 1967 prevailing in a unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. This ruling is considered one of the most notable civil rights decisions in U.S. history.
You may or may not know that El Cerrito has its own Loving Story. Many of you are familiar with the Shadi Christmas exhibit. Mr. Shadi and his wife was also an interracial couple and had to marry in Nevada because they were not allowed to marry in California in 1934. We are all grateful for their contributions to El Cerrito and impact on our community is felt even today. Thanks to the El Cerrito Historical Society for pointing this out.
For many attendees, this was an opportunity to affirm our commitment to our community’s diversity, and to applaud our embrace of differences among all of us.