Documentary Film Depicts Love Story Behind U.S. Supreme Court Decision Loving v. Virginia
With the United States Supreme Court set to make a definitive ruling on nationwide marriage equality later this year, a March program presented by the Bennington Branch of the American Association for University Women and the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force is especially timely.
A free screening of “The Loving Story,” an award-winning documentary about the 1967 landmark civil rights case in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriage, will take place in Bennington at Oldcastle Theatre on Saturday, March 14 at 3 p.m.
Two guest speakers will accompany the film (running time, 77 minutes). Former LIFE magazine writer Barbara Villet will discuss the work of her late husband Grey Villet, whose photographs of Mildred and Richard Loving, taken in 1965 while Villet was on assignment for LIFE, appear in the film.
In addition, Beth Robinson, of Ferrisburgh, who in 1999 argued to the Vermont Supreme Court that same-sex couples have a constitutionally protected right to marry, and who now serves as a Justice on that court, will trace the impact of the precedent-setting 1967 Loving decision on contemporary same-sex marriage cases.
The Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia was brought by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. “The Loving Story” includes recently discovered 16mm film footage of the Lovings and their young ACLU lawyers, as well as first-person testimony by their daughter Peggy Loving and Grey Villet’s rare documentary photographs.
Guest speaker Barbara Villet, who lives in Shushan, New York, says of her husband’s photographs of the couple: “He chose, as he did in every essay we ever worked on together, to seek out the literal heart of the matter: a love story.”
A world class photojournalist whose work was featured in LIFE, Grey Villet received photojournalism’s most prestigious award in 1955 when he was named Magazine Photographer of the Year. His photos of Mildred and Richard Loving were taken over a two-week visit to their home. The short picture
essay that appeared in LIFE was not so much the story of a legal battle, but a love story. These photos may be viewed at www.greyvillet.com/essay/lovings.html.
Beth Robinson was co-counsel to the plaintiffs in Vermont's groundbreaking case Baker v. State of Vermont, which led to Vermont's first-in-the-nation civil union law. Beth was a co-founder of the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force and a leader in Vermont's freedom to marry movement, whose work culminated in the Vermont Legislature's passage of a law extending the right to marry to same sex couples in 2009. In 2011, Governor Peter Shumlin appointed Beth to serve as an Associate Justice on the Vermont Supreme Court..
“The Loving Story,” directed by Nancy Buirski, won Emmy and Peabody Awards in 2013 and was shortlisted for an Oscar.