In the nearly 100 years of our existence, the ACLU has always fought for the right to live and love freely.
More than 50 years ago, the ACLU took on a historic case for love: Loving v. Virginia. Mildred and Richard Loving married on June 2, 1958, in Washington, D.C. But by this act of love, they committed what 17 states—including Virginia—considered to be a crime: interracial marriage.
After being arrested while traveling together, Mildred Loving wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy for help, and the couple was referred to the ACLU. Represented by ACLU attorneys, the Lovings took their case to the United States Supreme Court in 1967—and won. The Court ruled that state bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional. In many ways, the unanimous Supreme Court triumph marked an extraordinary victory of love over hate.
But discriminatory attitudes about marriage and family did not disappear. Since the first marriage lawsuit for same-sex couples in 1970, the ACLU has been at the forefront of both legal and public education efforts to secure relationship protections for same-sex couples and legal recognition for LGBTQ relationships. Love did win in the end: The Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in the ACLU’s case Obergefell v. Hodges ensured that same-sex couples in all 50 states have the right to get married and have their marriages recognized, no matter where they live. We continue to fight to ensure full implementation of the Obergefell decision and equal protection for LGBTQ families.
All of the progress we have seen for the freedom to marry might have been delayed for years—or might never have happened at all—if not for Massachusetts. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to allow LGBTQ couples to marry—and the ACLU of Massachusetts was there every step of the way.
Today, the ACLU is fighting to protect and defend families—and to reunite loved ones torn apart by the Trump administration’s family separation crisis. Nearly one year ago, the ACLU sued the Trump administration in federal court, challenging its illegal and cruel practice of separating families. The events that followed shocked the world, as thousands of young children were locked away in immigration facilities alone while their parents were detained far away. The arising public outcry was loud and clear: Families belong together.
A federal judge stopped the Trump administration’s family separation policy in June 2018, ordering the government to reunite families. The ACLU immediately set to work to locate every separated parent and advise them of their rights to be reunited. About 95 percent of the children known to have been separated have now been reunited with their parents—but a recent government report reaffirmed that the administration does not know the total number of children it tore from parents under its family separation policy.
In Massachusetts, the ACLU continues to fight for families by challenging a Trump tactic of separating married couples pursuing lawful immigration status, and by advocating for legislation to keep families together. This Valentine's Day, stand up for love by registering for Immigrants' Day at the State House.
We believe that love wins—and history proves it.