Happy marriages can flourish where they once were discouraged, or even banned
By Lori Young-Williams
Lori Young-Williams, a Twin Cities writer, works in human resources at the University of Minnesota.
My mom starts the story of how she met my dad: "I pursued him. I wondered where he goes after church. Where does he live?" I can see her with a smile on her face, watching Dad walk down Rondo Avenue.
We are going through her old scrapbook that she made by hand. It holds cards she and Dad sent to each other, with handwritten Bible verses on them.
One card holds a long letter from Mom. She had gone home to Menomonie, Wis., to visit her family. She explained what was happening at home, who she had seen among her friends and such. But she was confused because they were sorry they were not able to find a "nice white boy for her." They were sorry that she was dating a black man. She was confused because she loved her family and her friends, but she also loved my dad.
She wrote in the letter, "I love you, Bill." Dad said he didn't want to force her to choose him. He wanted her to make this decision on her own. He loved her and hoped she loved him. You love who you love.
They got married Sept. 1, 1958. Their wedding picture that sits on my desk is in black and white. They hold hands; their smiles are big and proud. Mom wears a tea-length dress, with a boat neck line, and sheer three-quarters sleeves, holding a Bible wrapped in ribbons in her left hand. Dad is dressed in a white dinner jacket with black slacks and bow tie, looking very Sidney Poitier in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." They stand in front of the church steps, with one of the church doors open, leading you in.
Mom tells me what I don't see in the picture. Off to the right, a group of white people have gathered on the boulevard across the street. A group of men, women, girls and boys watch my parents' wedding party as friends and family leave the church. No harsh words are said, just the typical Minnesota gawking, looking. This is 1958 in Minnesota. It may not be against the law but it is rare to see an interracial couple getting married.
But someone must have minded, because the windows of the church, which is no longer there, north of Interstate Hwy. 94, were broken out that night.
My parents were married almost 50 years. My dad died in February 2008. My parents may have come from different races, but they were meant for each other. They believed that justice for all was important. They were not afraid to go out on a limb for someone. They were not afraid to cross the color line to see someone like themselves.
I write this story now because the debate over same-sex marriage is the same, though not exactly the same, as it was for interracial marriages. State laws banning interracial marriage were struck down 45 years ago this week. Same-sex marriage may not be legal in certain states now, but it will be legal — a choice for all gay couples in future. It will take time, but it will happen.