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Part I: LOVING and Bioethics The Right to Marry

LOVING – Official Trailer from Mill Valley Film Festival on Vimeo.

Courtesy Focus Films
LOVING was the closing night film of the 39th Mill Valley Film Festival. Jeff Nichols is its writer/director. At 38 years old, born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Nichols is a master at breaking stereotypes about cultures, especially those below the Mason Dixon Line.  

LOVING is based on the lives of Mildred  and Richard Loving. The portrayals by Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in the title roles is an exquisitely intimate, internal portrait. The main characters met young, fell in love in a poor rural neighbor of Virginia where races interacted socially. The love aspect of the story is prominent but the underclass nature of interracial life in the region is equally as strong. In 1958, the couple were forbidden to marry because their state was among many with anti-miscegenation laws.  

Nichols’ LOVING is as much about class— working poor—as it is about race. As long as Mildred and Richard kept within the constraints of the geo-social ‘Bottoms’ the state powers would not care. They weren’t so much jailed because Mildred was Black while Richard White but because they dared want their love and children legitimated. Anti-miscegenation laws stemmed, above all else not from morality but economics—controlling who could own property, historically determined by parentage. The law they violated was a vestige of slavery in their state.

LOVING, the feature length fictional film, evolved from director Nichols’ admiration for a documentary made years before. Nichols LOVING defies the Hollywood Film industries tendency to make heroism only a characteristic of overtly  “charismatic people.” LOVING is a work that celebrates that every day, ordinary people do the impossible. 

The Lovings were interested in living their lives. Referred by Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s office to the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) at Mrs. Loving’s initiation, the couple left the lawyers to the legal job. While the Loving’s tended their own work, raising a family.

The ACLU fought and won Loving V Virginia in the supreme court in 1967 — near ten years after the birth of the couple’s first child. The case was won based  on Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law  being in violation of the  Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which, provides equal protection under the law — including the right to marry. 

The Fourteenth Amendment was one of the Restoration amendments after the US Civil war. The Restoration Amendments among other things legally dismantled the economic system of slavery. The Loving case was fought  nearly 100 years after the slavery emancipation proclamation.

Loving v Virginia was proceeded and followed by many other legal presidencies adjudicated by the supreme court and supported by The Fourteenth Amendment including, Brown v. Board of Education (1954) regarding racial school segregation, Roe v. Wade (1973) about abortion, Bush v. Gore (2000) regarding the 2000 presidential election, and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) regarding same-sex marriage.The foot prints of the Fourteen Amendment are also solidly ensconced in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its 16th Article —The right to marriage and Family.

Why is this film important to Bioethics?  The Lovings predicament is a cautionary tell about historical abuse of scientific process in supporting anti-miscegenation practices. LOVING also identifies a victory for the strength of persistent struggle — particularly one having an influence on the understanding not only of humanity but the moral obligations of scientist to do good work, and to monitor its moral implications. 

LOVING is a gentle film—not designed to be a blockbuster but one which will stand the test of time.  

Loving (2016) Trailer:

Loving V. Virgina  Interacial and Mixed  documentary HBO Trailer trailer

The Constitution of the United States

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 

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