HomeBad Ass AsiansThe Forgotten Asian American Hero Behind Loving V.S. Virginia

The Forgotten Asian American Hero Behind Loving V.S. Virginia

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By Sophia Whittemore
AsAmNews Intern

If any of you have seen the movie Loving, the story detailing an interracial couple’s struggles to have their marriage recognized, then you’ll know just how important that case was for the sake of the nation. I know it’s certainly important. If interracial marriage was illegal, then my Indonesia-born mom wouldn’t legally be able to marry my dad, and I wouldn’t exist.

So yeah. It’s important.

Loving V.S. Virginia was the pivotal U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage in all the United States. Half-Japanese, Hapa New Yorker journalist David Muto reported on the Japanese lawyer behind it all: William Marutani.

From the Densho Encyclopedia, Mr. Marutani was forcibly taken into Japanese internment camps with his parents after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of adversity, he chose to redirect all his energies to ending injustice everywhere.

He did a damn good job of it when he took on the Lovings’ case.

In the Loving movie, A.C.L.U. lawyers Bernard Cohen and Philip Hirschkop were granted screen time as being the main players in the case. However, one more man was granted valuable speaking time for that pivotal decision. Fifteen precious minutes. And that man was Mr. Marutani, a Japanese American lawyer with an unrelenting perseverance.

Mr. Marutani sided with the Japanese American Citizens League (or the J.A.C.L.) to protect Japanese rights in a turbulent American period. Marutani looked at the Lovings’ case and calmly stated at how the ban on interracial marriages would negatively impact racial minority groups, including the Japanese. Looking beyond race, outlawing interracial marriage was a crime against basic human rights.

The right to love, for instance. To start a family. To build a home.

Mr. Marutani fought endlessly for that case. He hardly gained any recognition for it, not even appearing on many of the official court records. However, his diligent work paid off, as on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court made its final decision.
Love won. Interracial marriage was legalized.

In the end, Mr. Marutani was a lawyer who didn’t seek fame.

But he sure earned the title of being a hero.
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