When I was three years old, Loving v. Virginia was decided. I was, as you can imagine, blissfully unaware of this.
I was unaware of it four years later as well. That was the year that Joe and Christine got married.
Joe was one of my dad’s students at the Job Corps. My mom and dad often had the Job Corps kids over for dinner; many of them were far from home, or had troubled home lives that were not safe to go home to. Joe, like many of the other students, was African-American.
After Joe graduated from Job Corps, he still came to visit us regularly. He was originally from Mississippi, and had a deep Southern accent that I thought was interesting. His family was far away (we lived in Oregon), so my folks were like surrogate parents for him. And that was why, when he started dating Christine, he brought her around to meet my folks.
Chris, like my family, was Caucasian.
I didn’t think boo about it, to be honest. I also didn’t think boo about it when they said they were getting married. I liked them both; Chris was nice to me and my brother, and I liked Joe a lot. I was excited to go to a wedding, because I got to wear my pretty new dress with the red and yellow flowers and the pleated ruffles.
It was a long time before I put two and two together about something that happened during that wedding: my dad gave the bride away. Chris’ parents refused to attend her marriage to a Black man.
I didn’t even understand the lesson until I was in my late teens and early 20s, if I’m perfectly honest with myself. The lesson was that everyone deserves to marry the person they love, as long as all parties are consenting adults and the various other legal requirements are met. Prejudice and bigotry are not good enough reasons to deny someone this basic civil right.
It was that lesson that I took with me during the years I worked on behalf of marriage equality for my LGBTQ+ friends.
My dad and I have not always seen eye-to-eye on things, but this lesson was impressed on me at a young age. I will always be grateful.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!