Clergy for Social Justice in the 60s

This made my day.

I have excerpted the main points from an article on WTOP, our local news radio’s website: Md. Couple’s Love Story Changed History.

BALTIMORE (AP) - He was of Samoan ancestry; she was a white girl from Locust Point. They fell in love in the Hawaiian Room in the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore in 1963.

But when the time came to get married, “We were turned away,” JoAnn said.

That failed attempt to wed in Maryland led to national publicity and a campaign to end the state’s miscegenation law, which banned most forms of interracial marriage. This spring marks the 40th anniversary of its repeal.

But change came too slowly to suit the Meki and JoAnn To’alepai, who exchanged vows in 1966 in Washington. It was already legal in the district for white women to marry so-called “brown” men. Then the newlyweds left for California.

A neighborhood priest told them about Maryland’s miscegenation law, which had banned blacks and whites from marrying for more than 300 years. It was amended in 1935 to stop weddings between whites and “the brown race,” which included some Pacific islanders.

The priest wanted permission to alert the media to their plight; the couple agreed, thinking it was the right thing to do and that the press would save the cost of a wedding photographer when they got married in Washington.

Reporters showed up, and the To’alepais’ story made Time magazine and major newspapers. From Annapolis to Honolulu, legislators condemned the law and promised to work for a change. The couple’s plight continued to be referenced in news stories up to the law’s repeal, on March 24, 1967. That was a few months before the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia, ending all race-based restrictions on American marriages.

Yay for the unnamed priest!