Congressman Bobby Scott issued the following statement to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Loving v. Virginia:
“In 1959, Mildred and Richard Loving were charged with violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. This injustice launched a courageous legal challenge that culminated in the Supreme Court ruling on this day, 50 years ago, that the United States would no longer allow race-based restrictions on the right to marry. The Loving Court unanimously stated that marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ confirming that America is a place of equality and freedom.
“The Loving decision is as important today as it was in 1967. Judge Leon M. Bazile, the state judge who originally sentenced the Lovings for violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, cited his sincerely held religious beliefs as justification for the Commonwealth’s ban on interracial marriages. Today, we must remember that religious liberty is a fundamental American value and we are free to believe or not – but we should not use a sincerely held religious belief or the ‘conscience-based objections’ of one person to cause harm to others.
As a nation, we must also remember that this was the same line of reasoning used to justify slavery, segregation, and other forms of discrimination.
“Unfortunately, on May 4th of this year, President Trump issued an executive order permitting individuals to use their ‘conscience-based objections’ to override civil rights protections. This sets a dangerous precedent that individuals can use their ‘conscience-based objections’ to undermine civil rights laws within the United States. To curb this dangerous precedent, I will join Congressman Joe Kennedy in reintroducing the Do No Harm Act, which provides that no one can seek religious exemption from laws guaranteeing fundamental civil and legal rights to others.
“The Loving decision – which restored the full dignity and rights of Americans of different races who wanted to marry – is a reminder that protecting civil rights is a compelling government interest. Today, I ask my colleagues to join with me in remembering this historic case, and urge our nation to keep in mind the equality and freedom for which the Supreme Court’s decision stands. We are a better, stronger and fairer nation thanks to their jurisprudence and to Mildred and Richard Loving for standing up to demand that their rights be recognized and protected.”