TIME Civil Rights

A History Lesson for the Kentucky Clerk Refusing to Grant Marriage Licenses

Not everyone immediately accepted the Supreme Court's 1967 ruling about interracial marriage, either

In recent months, as the Supreme Court considered the question of marriage equality, one particular case served as a frequent point of comparison for advocates of gay marriage rights: Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 case that struck down laws that prevented interracial marriage. The case was even cited by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his opinion in the gay marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges, when he noted that it established the precedent that marriage is “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

Now it seems that the link between Loving and Obergefell doesn’t end there. As a Kentucky county clerk continues to refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples—despite Obergefell and despite a refusal by the Supreme Court to get involved with her case—it’s worth remembering that it was years after Loving before interracial marriage was actually a given across the United States.

In theory, the Loving ruling meant all anti-miscegenation laws in the United States were invalidated. At the time, more than a dozen states had such laws on the books. But three years later, when Sgt. Louis Voyer (who was white) and Phyllis Bett (who was black) tried to get married in Alabama, they were refused a license by Probate Judge C. Clyde Brittain, on the basis that Alabama law would have made such a license criminal. In fact, Alabama law still made Voyer and Bett’s coupledom criminal in itself, and the Alabama constitution actively barred state lawmakers from legalizing marriage between “any white person and a Negro, or descendant of a Negro.”

In the resulting 1970 case United States v. Brittain, the district court ruling was extremely straightforward: there was no question that the Alabama laws in question were unconstitutional and that Voyer and Bett had the right to marry. The court even held that it didn’t matter if there were some other justification for not allowing them to do so—for example, if the bride did not properly provide proof of residence—because it was so obvious that the real motivation was racial. (This point is perhaps relevant today, as the Kentucky clerk in question has worked around the Obergefell ruling by refusing to grant all marriage licenses—but she has made no secret that her motivation is related to the question of her beliefs about marriage equality.) Nor did it matter that Voyer and Bett had gone ahead and gotten married in Tennessee. There was, the court ruled, reason enough for it to issue an opinion, just to set the record straight:

Although the unconstitutionality of these miscegenation laws cannot be seriously questioned by any trained in the law, we find a situation where the chief law officer of the State of Alabama is not free (and this has been so stipulated) to advise Judges of Probate who are not members of the bar that these miscegenation laws are unconstitutional and should not be followed. Such advice could only (by force of custom if not of law) be given after the Alabama laws had been declared unconstitutional by a court of competent jurisdiction. Given such a situation, there is no reason for this Court to delay making such a declaration until another couple in just the right circumstances next feels the pinch of these laws.

It took years for the last wave of such local tests of Loving to finally die down, as explained by Julie Lavonne Novkov in her book Racial Union. It took another decade or so for the echo of Loving‘s implications to pass through the courts. (It wasn’t until 1984, for example, that the court ruled interracial couples couldn’t be discriminated against in child-custody decisions.) And it wasn’t until 2000 that Alabama actually removed its long-unenforceable anti-miscegenation law from its books.

If the fallout from Loving is any indication, those who side with the Kentucky clerk may have years of fight left to go—but their battle will likely be a losing one in the end.

Read TIME’s original coverage of the Loving case, here in the TIME Vault: Anti-Miscegenation Statutes: Repugnant Indeed

Read next: Kentucky Clerk Still Won’t Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

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TIME photography

See Photos of the Wreck of the Titanic When It Was First Discovered

The long-lost shipwreck was found 30 years ago

When the Titanic sank in 1912, the famous ship wasn’t exactly sailing in obscurity. Yet it took decades before the wreckage was discovered. It wasn’t until Sept. 1, 1985—30 years ago Tuesday—that scientists, after years and years of searching, found what they were looking for.

As shown by these photos, taken that year and shortly after, the ship was in surprisingly good condition considering the time that had passed. Robert Ballard, the leader of the discovery expedition, told TIME that month that the ocean had shielded the grand liner and kept it a “museum piece.”

But the find was exciting for more than the Titanic’s history. As TIME explained, the discovery proved that the rest of the ocean’s mysteries were now fair game:

In a sense, it was a dream fulfilled for all seafaring scientists. To locate one of the most technologically advanced vessels of its day, the researchers employed the most advanced technology of today. A team of 13 Woods Hole investigators sailing on the U.S. Navy research vessel Knorr joined forces with a contingent of French scientists aboard the Suroit, operated by the Paris-based Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER). The two ships bristled with several million dollars’ worth of sophisticated equipment. It included a high-resolution sonar device that can trace precisely the contours of the ocean floor, and a compact submersible vessel towed like a sled on a cable, which relayed photographs and videotape confirming the Titanic find. For some of the investigators, the biggest thrill was that their experimental equipment worked. ”This allows us to open up deep-sea exploration on a much, much larger scale than before,” says Woods Hole Director John Steele. ”We couldn’t ask for more.”

Read more from 1985, here in the TIME Vault: After 73 Years, a Titanic Find


TIME conflict

See a Close-Up of General MacArthur’s Plan for the End of World War II

The military leader negotiated the ceremony that would take place on Sept. 2, 1945

Museum of World War II Boston

Though Japan announced plans to surrender in World War II within days of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it took weeks before the brutal war officially came to a close — the reason “V-J Day” is observed on a few different days. The time in between was consumed with the tricky logistics of negotiating the details of surrender. Representatives of Japan and of the Allied powers would need to meet but, at a time when Japanese partisans were perceived to remain a threat, General Douglas MacArthur was particularly concerned about the safety of his delegates.

“There was a lot of concern on MacArthur and his staff’s side that something dastardly could happen, that the initial party could get ambushed,” explains Kenneth Rendell, the founder and director of the Museum of World War II in Natick, Mass. MacArthur’s concern can be seen in the lengthy document he prepared instructing Japanese delegates about the steps that would need to be followed in order to bring the two sides together.

In this page from one draft of that document, which is in the museum’s collection, MacArthur’s handwritten notes can be seen making a slight change to the timing of one of those steps. (The document was in the papers of LeGrande A. Diller, MacArthur’s chief of staff for public relations, before it was acquired by the museum.) But even the most detailed plans don’t always work out: this document names August 31—exactly 70 years ago Monday—as the date on which the two sides would meet. But further complications pushed the signing of the surrender documents to Sept. 2.

More like this: See the Original Operations Orders for the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Read TIME’s original 1945 coverage of the surrender, here in the TIME Vault: “… Peace Be Now Restored”

TIME Pop Culture

Burning Man’s Founder Explains the Problem With Utopia

The annual festival runs from Aug. 30–Sept. 7 this year. Remember your toilet paper

Nearly three decades after the inaugural Burning Man festival, the massive gathering in the desert is still tricky to explain. The event, which runs this year from Aug. 30-Sep. 7, now attracts politicians and pop starsbut what exactly is it and how did it start?

In 2000, TIME’s Joel Stein went straight to the source for an answer, interviewing Larry Harvey, the man who lit the spark:

Harvey, a San Francisco bohemian, started the tradition 14 years ago as a punk-pagan celebration on a San Francisco beach and moved it to a lifeless desert northeast of Reno in 1990 when the S.F. beach patrol kicked him off. Since then, he has nurtured his festival into a lengthy ritual that this Labor Day attracted 30,000 campers to its mix of art, raves, nudity and spirituality. In the process, much has changed. Harvey has driven out some of his original anarchy-loving partners, instituted streets and rules (no guns), and now controls much of the art through $250,000 in grants. He is the director of a limited-liability corporation that oversees the festival’s $4 million annual budget. He is the mayor of the wildest city the West has ever seen.

Larry Harvey may be the first truly pragmatic utopian. “The problem with utopias is that they are based on some theory of human nature,” he says, as he is joined on his couch by a topless woman, a punk called Chicken John and a transvestite glam rock star named Adrian Roberts. “Static utopias based on a priori notions are doomed to failure.” Surprisingly, utopias where you have to bring your own toilet paper work just fine.

As for the effigy after which the festival is named, which seems to get bigger every year? The size isn’t really the point. “That first man was just 8 ft. tall, and it was enough,” Harvey told TIME. “Something bigger than they are–that’s all people need. It’s at least enough to inspire a leap of faith.”

Read the full story from 1997, here in the TIME Vault: The Man Behind Burning Man

TIME Sports

Serena Williams’ Fashion Future Was Hinted at Years Ago

Sep. 3, 2001
Cover Credit: ADREES LATIF The Sep. 3, 2001, cover of TIME

A TIME cover story from 2001 offered a glimpse at Serena Williams' still-to-come future

At the U.S. Open, starting Monday, Serena Williams will have the opportunity to make history with tennis’ always-elusive Grand Slam—victories in the four major tournaments all in the same year. That’s a huge deal for any athlete, but for Williams it could be especially so: as revealed in a New York Magazine cover story earlier this month, even though she’s at the top of her game the 33-year-old has her eye on what might come next.

There’s every indication that that next phase in Williams’ career will be to continue the work she’s already done in the world of fashion—which would be no surprise to anyone who read TIME’s 2001 cover story about Williams and her sister Venus. As the story revealed, the siblings were already taking their first steps toward a fashion career as they were first entering stardom:

They are up front about the fact that tennis is merely one aspect of their lives. They take the autumn off, for example, to attend a fashion design school located next to a strip mall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Because the ranking system of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) adds up the best 17 events over the previous 52 weeks, neither sister has a realistic shot at a No. 1 ranking. Still, Venus, who won Wimbledon in July, is ranked fourth, while Serena, who has played even less, is 10th. They are part-time players with a full-time presence.

…Along with Anna Kournikova, 20, who may be the most photographed woman in the world, the Williams sisters are celebrities as much as they are tennis players. “We’re two sisters. That’s new and exciting,” says Serena, sounding very much like a younger sister. And they act like sisters. Really close sisters. Besides living together, they usually share hotel rooms at tournaments. They sit next to each other in their classes. They want to start a clothing business together. When Venus loses her wallet, which is surprisingly often, Serena often finds it. Venus even sticks her nose in Serena’s mouth to find out what she ate. They make the Jolie siblings look estranged.

Read the full story from 2001, here in the TIME Vault: The Sisters vs. The World

TIME animals

For National Dog Day, Meet a Hero Dog From 1928

Feb. 27, 1928
TIME The Feb. 27, 1928, cover of TIME

'Max barked until a policeman came to revive Gilbert Kirkwood'

In honor of National Dog Day—celebrated on Aug. 26–allow us to look back at the the first nonhuman to be a TIME cover subject: a basset hound puppy who was a born show dog with champion parents. But the story, which was prompted by the 1928 Westminster Kennel Club dog show, took a much broader look at the state of dogs in America.

“It would be idle to suppose that the tiny fraction of the U. S. canine population which last week posed and strutted in Madison Square Garden was in any sense the most important,” TIME noted. “Other dogs did not pause last week, in the performance of their deeds and duties, to admire the antics of these prototypes.”

Among the canine feats highlighted by TIME was one particularly heroic pooch:

In Manhattan, Max, a police dog, watched his owner, one Gilbert Kirkwood, a plasterer, going to sleep with a cigaret in his mouth. When he saw that Gilbert Kirkwood’s cigaret had dropped and ignited the bedclothes, Max dragged the burning bedclothes away from Gilbert Kirkwood and put them in the kitchen. Then he dragged Gilbert Kirkwood, overcome by smoke, off the bed and put him in the kitchen right next the bedclothes. After this, Max barked until a policeman came to revive Gilbert Kirkwood and to extinguish both his bedclothes and the conflagration caused by dragging these from room to room.

Read more stories of 1920s canine heroism in the TIME Vault: Putting on the Dog

Read next: 21 Reasons This Dog Is the Best Dog in the World

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TIME conflict

The ‘Zealot’ Who Gave the John Birch Society Its Name

John Birch Society Exhibit
Spencer Grant—Getty Images New England Rally for God, Family & Country by the John Birch Society Exhibit held at the Statler Hilton Hotel on Park Square, Boston, 1972.

His death on Aug. 25, 1945, was commemorated by the anti-communist group

It was one of the last deaths of World War II, but its legacy had a lasting effect on our politics.

Seventy years ago Tuesday—on Aug. 25, 1945— a 26-year-old Army Air Force captain named John Birch was killed by communists in China at the twilight of World War II, after Japan announced its surrender. Some 13 years later, the John Birch Society–named for the young soldier–was founded to expose what they saw as rampant communism within the United States.

The secretive group wasted little time fanning the flames of anti-communist sentiment, with TIME reporting in 1961 on their theories about leftist agents in high-ranking government positions—including, they posited, Dwight Eisenhower. That report was read into the Congressional record a few weeks later and inspired debate on the Senate floor.

The group’s namesake was apt. As TIME reported, Birch was a champion crusader:

John Birch was born in Landour, India, to a husband-and-wife team of missionaries. When John was two years old, his family returned to the U.S., and he was raised in New Jersey and Georgia. In 1939 Birch graduated from Georgia’s Baptist-controlled Mercer University as the top man in his class, leaving behind him a record that is still recalled. “He was always an angry young man, always a zealot,” says a classmate. “He felt he was called to defend the faith, and he alone knew what it was.” Says a psychology professor: “He was like a one-way valve: everything coming out and no room to take anything in.”

In his senior year, Birch organized a secret “Fellowship Group” and set out to suppress a mildly liberal trend at Mercer. He and twelve colleagues collected examples of “heresy” uttered by faculty members (example: a reference to evolution), whipped up support among Georgia’s Baptist clergy, finally forced the school to try five men on the charge. Mercer eventually dismissed the cases, but not before admonishing 75-year-old Dr. John D. Freeman, a world-famous Baptist leader, for using a theologically “unsound” textbook. That summer Dr. Freeman quietly retired from Mercer. Says a professor: “It broke him.”

After school, Birch followed his parents’ lead in becoming a missionary. He was serving in China when World War II arrived. In 1942, after meeting survivors of the U.S. air raid on Tokyo, Birch decided to enlist and was assigned to work behind enemy lines in China.

Read more from 1961, here in the TIME Vault: Who Was John Birch?

TIME conflict

What It Felt Like to Witness the Liberation of Paris During World War II

Sep. 4, 1944
TIME The Sept. 4, 1944, cover of TIME

'I have never seen in any face such joy as radiated from the faces of the people of Paris this morning'

For four long years during World War II, France’s capital city festered under the thumb of Nazi occupation—until Aug. 19, 1944, when Paris, it seemed, could take no more. With the German forces on their heels throughout the region, an uprising broke out in the city. Less than a week later, on this day in 1944, Allied forces triumphantly made their way into the City of Light. For many around the world, it was the liberation of that great cultural center that marked the beginning of the end of the horrific war.

“Paris is the city of all free mankind,” TIME opined shortly after, “and its liberation last week was one of the great events of all time.”

The report from TIME’s war correspondent Charles Christian Wertenbaker captured the charged spirit of the moment:

I have seen the faces of young people in love and the faces of old people at peace with their God. I have never seen in any face such joy as radiated from the faces of the people of Paris this morning. This is no day for restraint, and I could not write with restraint if I wanted to. Your correspondent and your photographer Bob Capa drove into Paris with eyes that would not stay dry, and we were no more ashamed of it than were the people who wept as they embraced us.

We had spent the night at General Leclerc’s command post, six miles from Paris on the Orleans-Paris road. Here the last German resistance outside Paris was being slowly reduced, while inside the city the Germans and the F.F.I, fought a bitter battle that had already lasted six days. Late in the afternoon a French cub plane flew in 50 yards above the Cathedral of Notre Dame, on the He de la Cite where the F.F.I, had its headquarters, and dropped a message which said simply: “Tomorrow we come.”

Read more from 1944, here in the TIME Vault: Paris Is Free!

TIME People

How Duke Kahanamoku Saved Lives With His Surfboard

The swimming and surfing star was born on Aug. 24, 1890

Monday marks what would have been the 125th birthday of the late Duke Kahanamoku, who during his lifetime was an Olympic swimmer and Hawaiian public official. Kahanamoku is best known today for boosting surfing’s popularity and introducing the sport to many regions around the world.

But Kahanamoku’s prowess with a surfboard is worth remembering for more reasons than mere athletic glory.

And, as TIME reported in 1925, Kahanamoku had a chance to prove that point one day in Laguna Beach, Calif.:

Out through the surf put a gasoline launch, the Thelma, with a fishing party aboard. The beach crowd watched her careen on the breakers, herded to the water’s edge when the boat capsized. Good swimmers ran splashing out, split the first wave with a dive, plowed off to the rescue.

In the lead swam a figure darker than the most deeply sunburned, an Hawaiian duke, Kahanamoku of Olympic fame. Before him, as he swam, he pushed his long surf board.

Five of the capsized fisherman had drowned before the swimmers reached them, but it was no trick at all for Kahanamoku and his followers to buoy up 13 survivors, drag them across their boards, catch a wave and rush their gasping passengers ashore in relays.

In his 1968 obituary, the rescue of the Thelma passengers was credited with helping Kahanamoku recapture the fame of his Olympic days, eventually leading him to his post as sheriff of Honolulu. But, even as he grew older and his role on the shore grew larger, he never stopped surfing. “To the last,” the obituary concluded, “he was a symbol of the islands, surfing, swimming, and appearing as the 50th state’s official greeter.”

Read the full 1925 story, here in the TIME Vault: Duke

Read next: Beyond The Waves: An Intimate Look at the Life of Surfer John John Florence

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TIME Books

See a Page From a Gutenberg Bible in Close-Up

The bibles were first printed in 1456

It’s hard to pin down the exact day the book was born, but August 24 is as fine a day to celebrate as any: it was on this day in 1456 that at least one copy of the original Gutenberg Bible was completed. You can zoom in on a page from that milestone text by rolling over it with your cursor (on your phone? Just click). This is Jerome’s epistle to Paulinus, which serves as the prologue to the Bible:

Print Collector-Getty Images

Because the colorful decorations were done by hand, each of the copies—about four dozen of which have survived intact, out of nearly 200—is slightly different, even though the actual text was printed with the same type.

As TIME explained in 1999, when it named Johann Gutenberg the most important person of the 15th century, non-European printers had figured out the idea of moveable type first—but dealing with more than 26 or so letter characters made it less efficient. Printing in Europe, meanwhile, was usually done by carving into a block of wood, which meant that once the printing form was made, you were stuck with it permanently. Having the idea of casting each letter separately and just moving them around wasn’t the only stumbling block for Gutenberg—he needed to find the metal that melted at the right temperature, he needed to find ink that wouldn’t smudge, he needed to design the press part of the machine—but it was a start.

Exactly what happened between his grand idea and the emergence of the first full Gutenberg Bible—like, for example, whether Gutenberg himself actually printed it—remains something of a mystery. But it was enough to get his name printed, as it were, in history:

By the time he was back in Mainz in 1448, Gutenberg had ironed out enough of these problems to persuade Johann Fust, a goldsmith and lawyer, to invest heavily in his new printing shop. Exactly what happened behind Gutenberg’s closed doors during the next few years remains unknown. But in 1455 visitors to the Frankfurt Trade Fair reported having seen sections of a Latin Bible with two columns of 42 lines each printed–printed–on each page. The completed book appeared about a year later; it did not bear its printer’s name, but it eventually became known as the Gutenberg Bible.

Read more about Gutenberg and others, here in the TIME Vault: The Most Important People of the Millennium

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