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In honor of Mildred Jeter Loving

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Before I go on with this post, a quick quiz:  In what year did the U.S. Supreme Court declare that laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional?  [The answer is at the end of the post.  For extra credit: What was the first state to recognize that antimiscegenation laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?  When?]

I just heard of the death of Mildred Jeter Loving.  Mildred Jeter was an African-American woman living in Northern Virginia.  She met, and fell in love with, Richard Loving, a White man from the same town; the Washington Post describes them as “childhood sweethearts”.  They married in Washington, DC, when she was 17 and he was 23.  They moved back to the town in Virginia, and were arrested for violating the laws banning interracial marriage or cohabitation as man and wife.  They pleaded guilty to the charge, and were sentenced to one year in prison.

However, the judge suspended the sentence for 25 years on the condition that the Lovings leave the state and not return for 25 years.  They moved to Washington, DC.  There, they filed suit to have their convictions overturned.  And this suit eventually ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Court ruled unanimously that the antimiscegenation laws of Virginia were unconstitutional, and, as a Supreme Court case, this decision applied to all states.  [Here’s the answer to the quiz: June 12, 1967.  Consequently, some interracial couples celebrate June 12 as Loving Day.].

 In summarizing the decision of the Court, Chief Justice Earl Warren writes:

The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. […] To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

Here a link to the whole opinion, which, though a bit long, goes into the whole logic of the case.  In particular, it refutes the claim of the Commonwealth of Virginia that, since the punishment was applied equally to citizens of both races, that the law was not discriminatory.

Here’s the obituary from the Washington Post, and another article of appreciation from the same paper.

Finally, the answer to the extra credit question: California was the first to make that ruling, in 1948.

HIV+ tourists are still banned from U.S.

Monday, May 5th, 2008

I’m getting ready for my annual trip to the convention of lesbian and gay square dancers.  This year it’s the twenty-fifth annual convention, and it’s in Cleveland [Touch a Quarter Century].  So, of course, I’m looking forward to seeing lots of friends–I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, so I’ve met lots of people over the years.  In fact, Jeremy and I met at a square dance convention–this year is our tenth anniversary.

But I’m also thinking of the people I won’t be seeing.  Not because they’re no longer alive–though there are far too many of those friends–but because they can’t get into the U.S.  Not because they’re criminals or dangerous, but because they’re HIV positive, and the U.S. government found out.

The U.S. is one of only 13 countries that completely ban incoming travel by HIV+ visitors.  [The others are: Armenia, Brunei, China, Iraq, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Sudan.  Interesting group, hmm?].  Some friends have tried bringing their HIV medications along with them, hoping their bags weren’t searched.  They guessed wrong, and now they’re permanently banned from the U.S.  Other friends have just skipped taking medications for the duration of their trip, hoping that it wouldn’t have too bad an effect on their health. 

This travel ban is the legacy of a conscious disregard of the advice of the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control at the time that this was originally discussed in Congress.  Indeed, the original version of the legislation made a distinction between AIDS and HIV; but Jesse Helms [remember him?] sponsored the “Helms amendment” that added HIV infection to the list of excludable conditions.  For people who are keeping track, the only contagious illness that the CDC recommends for exclusion is infectious tuberculosis.

The ban does include the possibility of waivers for travellers attending important events–the Olympics, the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS, etc.  It was done on a case by case basis, in a fairly informal way.  It did, of course, mean that the prospective visitor was permanently on the list of people who needed waivers to visit the U.S.

Last year on World AIDS Day [December 1], the Bush administration announced that they were “streamlining” the process of granting travel waivers for HIV+ people.  But, after all the fanfare died down, it became clear that the proposed process has become more bureaucratic, more intrusive, and, ultimately, more restrictive.

By the way, the UN recommends the abolition of travel bans on HIV+ people.  [Here’s the Policy Statement.]  It looks like Congress will consider this issue at some point, but it may have to wait until after the election. 

In the mean time, there are indications that China will rescind it’s ban before we do.  Now that’s a competition that I hate losing.

Concert Week(3)–Final Run Through and Performance

Sunday, May 4th, 2008
This morning we had a final run through with the orchestra.  The basic task is to get through the whole piece with no interruptions [and no "do overs"].  Orff's Carmina Burana is divided into sections, but within the sections, the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Concert Week(2)–Adapting to the Orchestra and the Hall

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008
Today, I spent a total of 5 hours rehearsing among the Chorus, with the Orchestra, soloists, and children's choir.  It's usually a fairly big adjustment to move into the hall where we'll performing.  The space is far larger than our ... [Continue reading this entry]

Concert week(1) –Working with the Conductor

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008
I sing with an amateur chorus, but one that occasionally performs with professional orchestras.  It's quite an honor; one that we try to live up to.  The process of rehearsing for a concert with an orchestra is a bit unusual--compared to ... [Continue reading this entry]