We’re in the midst of “Black” History Month, which celebrates the significant accomplishments and contributions of African Americans to American culture. One of the highlights was Martin Luther King Jr.’s push for equality through non-violent social protest.

Richard P. Loving, and his wife Mildred, shown in this January 26, 1965 photograph. (AP/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Same-sex marriage and interracial marriage have historic parallels in gaining public support and legal recognition. At one point interracial marriage was considered taboo, illegal, and indeed un-American and a sacrilege. This was until Richard and Mildred Loving—a white man and black woman from Virginia—put their loving to the test by taking their case to the Supreme Court, which in 1967 overruled laws forbidding interracial marriage.

While interracial marriage is now recognized in every state, and no longer considered taboo by the vast majority of Americans, the fight for same-sex nuptials is still seemingly an uphill battle.

Washington State appears poised to legalize same-sex marriage. Recently, in Maryland, contention brewed over the issue, as hundreds turned out to oppose same- sex marriage, calling it a sin.

As someone who has had two heterosexual marriages, I find it laughable that social conservatives who oppose same-sex marriage think that heterosexuals are better equipped to honor and uphold this civil institution any more than same-sex couples.

Many of those in Maryland opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage do so on religious grounds. And a Washington Post poll shows that a slim majority of African Americans in Maryland oppose same-sex marriage, while a vast majority of whites in the state support same-sex unions.

I am African-American. And even though I oppose labels, I find it highly ironic that such a large contingent of my fellow African Americans oppose another minority—those who identify as gays and lesbians—having the right to marry and access all of the benefits and rights this institution confers.

Such an opposition is counter to the basic tenants of equality and human rights.

Marriage is a civil institution interwoven into the fabric of our culture and society which has assumed significance outside of its religious underpinnings. I’d argue that marriage is a contractual matter between individuals that should not be denied to individuals based upon race, gender or sexual orientation.

So in the spirit of Dr. King, Black History Month, and the Civil Rights Movement, let’s continue the progress that Mildred and Richard Loving so bravely began decades ago. Allow people to get married regardless of gender and sexual orientation.

Joy Freeman-Coulbary, a Washingtonian, is a pacifist, lawyer and free-spirit. You can reach her at freemancoulbary@gmail.comand follow her on Twitter @enJOYJFC.

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