Loving v. Virginia
On June 12th
, the Supreme Court of the United States
statute unconstitutional in the case Loving v. Virginia
(338 US 1), thereby ending all legal restriction on marriage
in the United States
based on race
. The plaintiffs, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, were residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia who had been married in June of 1958 in the District of Columbia
, having left Virginia to evade a state law banning marriages between persons of different races. Upon their return to Virginia, they were charged with violation of the ban, pled guilty, and were sentenced to one year in prison, with the sentence suspended for 25 years on condition that the couple leave the state of Virginia. The trial judge in the case, echoing a common sentiment of the time, proclaimed that
- Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.
The Lovings moved to the District of Columbia, and in 1963
began a series of lawsuits seeking to overcome their conviction on Fourteenth Amendment
grounds. Their suit ultimately reached the Supreme Court, which overturned their convictions in a unanimous decision, dismissing the Commonwealth of Virginia's argument that a law forbidding both white and black persons from marrying persons of another race, and providing identical penalties to white and black violators, could not be construed as racially discriminatory. In its decision, the court wrote
- Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.
The full text of the decision may be found at