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Loving v. Virginia
Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), A constitutional law case heard by the United States Supreme Court, best known for overturning Virginia’s law on miscegenation, and ending all racially-based restrictions on marriage in the United States.
Summary of Case Facts
Mildred Loving and Richard Loving, an interracial couple who lived in Virginia, went to the District of Columbia (“D.C.”) to be married. At the time, Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute, the “Racial Integrity Act of 1924,” banned interracial marriages and prevented the Lovings from marrying within their home state. Upon their return to Virginia, police officers invaded their home to find them sleeping in their bed. Hoping to find the Lovings in the midst of a sexual act (another crime in Virginia between interracial couples at the time), the police instead used the framed certificate of marriage on the wall (from D.C.) to charge them with another crime – that of an interracial couple marrying in another state and returning to Virginia. The Lovings plead guilty and were sentenced to one year in prison to be suspended on the condition that they leave the state. Shortly thereafter, the Lovings relocated to D.C. There, the ACLU took an interest in their case, filing a motion on their behalf to vacate the judgment and set aside the sentence on the grounds that the statute they were prosecuted under was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Does a state law banning interracial marriage violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
Holding and Law
Yes. The court said that marriage is one of the fundamental civil rights granted to all people, and as such, any law abridging that right should be subjected to the most “rigid scrutiny.” The court went on to say, “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 discrimination. 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 court unanimously overturned the Lovings conviction, and concluded that there was no purpose for such laws other than to perpetuate racial discrimination and to maintain white supremacy.
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