50 years ago: Tucson couple broke down barriers to interracial marriage

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-05 01:51Z by Steven

50 years ago: Tucson couple broke down barriers to interracial marriage

Arizona Capital Times

Luige del Puerto

Henry Oyama was beaming as he led his new bride from the altar of St. Augustine Cathedral in Tucson 50 years ago. She was wearing a traditional white wedding dress, and her left hand was grasping the right arm of her man.

The photos taken that day might leave the impression nothing was out of place, as if it was any other marriage ceremony. But in 1959 the country was on the brink of a major cultural shift to eliminate racism, and the Oyamas had just fought a landmark court battle to overturn an Arizona law that prohibited interracial marriage.

Because Henry Oyama is of Japanese descent and Mary Ann Jordan was white, together they broke down the race-based law that was intended to keep them apart.

The law itself made it illegal for a Caucasian to marry a non- Caucasian, so Oyama felt the onus was on the white person who wanted to marry someone of another race.

“Naturally, the criticism would come more to her,” Oyama said, adding that Mary Ann’s parents believed at the time that their daughter was making herself a target.

The 83-year-old Oyama knows better than most what it’s like to be a target. He spent two years in an internment camp at the beginning of World War II, and he later served the United States as a spy in Panama

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