My Parents’ Marriage Was Illegal in 17 States When I Was Born

Happy Anniversary to Loving vs. Virginia

Maria Shimizu Christensen
2 min readJun 13, 2022


In 1963 a dark-skinned half Japanese and half Filipino man married a white Irish-American woman. She looked remarkably like Shirley Jones, his favorite actress. The fact that he was Catholic made the marriage just palatable enough to her side of the family.

It’s not like they really had a choice about getting married, given the time and religion. I’d already been in utero for three months. These things happen. They swore, when I found out many years later, that the timeline just got moved up a bit. That’s doubtful, but that’s another story.

Also another story is the fact that there wasn’t much of a choice about the pregnancy either, since the Supreme Court didn’t rule on Roe v. Wade until I was 10 years old.

In June of 1964, when I made my entrance into the world, their marriage was still illegal in 17 states. That number whittled down to 15 by the time the Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage in 1967 with the Loving v. Virginia case.

It was a big deal.

I didn’t know at the time that there were 17 states we couldn’t travel to. I did know that people gave us funny looks. All the time.

Those funny looks still happen to interracial couples in pockets of this country. And by “funny” you know I don’t mean “funny”.

The original miscegenation laws, particularly in the South, were aimed at white people carrying on with black people, but they included anyone who wasn’t white. My father was definitely not white, and here on the West Coast, anti-Asian bigotry was still a normal thing. Asian men dating and marrying white women was extremely rare. Luckily for me, it was legal.

These days, most of polite society pretends not to notice interracial couples and families. But, they often betray their prejudices in phrases like, “that kind of marriage will be/is so hard” and “what about the kids?”.

The thing is, all marriages are hard sometimes, for a variety of reasons that are internal to the relationship. The extra reason interracial relationships can be hard is because of people outside the relationship. These people imply that interracial couples should re-think their relationships because other people can be assholes. They just say it nicer.

We’ve come a long way. We still have miles to go.



Maria Shimizu Christensen

Writer. Maker. Featured in Medium’s 2021 list of Stories That Started Conversations. I write about life.