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Loving v. Virginia

Loving v. Virginia

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued April 10, 1967

Decided June 12, 1967

Full case name: Richard Perry Loving, Mildred Jeter Loving v. Virginia
Citations: 388 U.S. 1; 87 S. Ct. 1817; 18 L. Ed. 2d 1010; 1967 U.S. LEXIS 1082
Prior history: Defendants convicted, Caroline County Circuit Court, 1-6-59; motion to vacate judgment denied, Caroline County Circuit Court, 1-22-65; affirmed in part, reversed and remanded, 147 S. E. 2d 78 (Va. 1966)
Virginia's prohibition of interracial marriage violated the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Supreme Court of Virginia reversed.
Court membership
Chief Justice: Earl Warren
Associate Justices: Hugo L. Black, William O. Douglas, Tom C. Clark, John Marshall Harlan II, William Brennan, Potter Stewart, Byron White, Abe Fortas
Case opinions
Majority by: Warren
Joined by: unanimous court
Concurrence by: Stewart
Laws applied
U.S. Const. Amend. XIV; Va. Code 20-58, 20-59

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute, the "Racial Integrity Law of 1924", unconstitutional in the case of thereby ending all race-based legal restriction on marriage in the United States.


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, ultimately reaching the Supreme Court.


The Supreme Court overturned the 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.

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