Story at a glance
- In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia effectively struck down anti-miscegenation laws.
- The case originated after a black woman and white man who married in Washington, D.C., were arrested in Virginia.
- The day is now celebrated as a milestone for civil rights and interracial relationships.
When they got married in Washington, D.C., in 1958, Mildred and Richard Loving said they didn’t know it was illegal in their home state of Virginia.
A few weeks after they returned home, Mildred, who was pregnant, and Richard were arrested for violating the state’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which made marriage between white and black people a criminal act. The Lovings pleaded guilty to “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.” A one-year sentence was suspended on the condition that they not return to Virginia together for at least 25 years.
BREAKING NEWS ABOUT THE GEORGE FLOYD CASE
It wasn’t until 1964 that the American Civil Liberties Union brought the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which upheld the ruling. The Lovings appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court and later, the highest court in the United States.
The Supreme Court decision to overturn the criminal conviction and declare anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional was unanimous, 9-0. At the time, 16 other states had similar anti-miscegenation laws, which were effectively struck down. Still, laws remained on the books in some states for years afterward, with Alabama becoming the last to amend language in the state’s constitution prohibiting miscegenation in 2000.
“There can be no question but that Virginia’s miscegenation statutes rest solely upon distinctions drawn according to race. The statutes proscribe generally accepted conduct if engaged in by members of different races,” the court said in their opinion, which was written by Chief Justice Earl Warren. “There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause.”
The ACLU tweeted in remembrance of the landmark decision that has since been cited as precedent for federal court decisions on same-sex marriage in the United States.
53 years ago, we represented Mildred and Richard Loving in the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia. We won the case and overturned unconstitutional bans against interracial marriage. #LovingDay pic.twitter.com/u4Pl9JhJvp
— ACLU (@ACLU) June 12, 2020
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