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Loving v. Virginia


LOVING V. VIRGINIA, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). In Loving v. Virginia the Supreme Court of the United States held that laws prohibiting interracial marriage violate the equal protection clause and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, an African American woman, were arrested when they returned to Virginia following their marriage in Washington, D.C. They were convicted for violating Virginia's antimiscegenation laws, which made the marriage "between a white person and a colored person a felony." Virginia's antimiscegenation laws, however, did not formally ban marriage between any other races. The trial courts and the Supreme Court of Virginia had upheld the Lovings' convictions.

Previously the U.S. Supreme Court had been hesitant to address the constitutionality of antimiscegenation laws. The Court had refused to review the constitutionality of a conviction under a state antimiscegenation law shortly after Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), the landmark school desegregation case. Surprisingly the Loving decision did not provoke the angry controversy that followed the Brown decision. The ban on interracial marriages was one of the last vestiges of legal racial discrimination. At the time this case was heard by the Supreme Court, fifteen states still had prohibitions against interracial marriage. The ruling in Loving, however, was not difficult to predict. In the 1964 case McLaughlin v. Florida the Court had held unconstitutional bans on interracial cohabitation.

In previous cases the Court held that state-mandated racial discrimination, in order to pass constitutional muster, would have to meet a "strict" standard of review. The strict standard of review requires a state to demonstrate that its laws mandating racial discrimination are necessary to the accomplishment of a "permissible state objective." The Court, in a unanimous opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, found that Virginia's antimiscegenation laws did not pass this strict test. The Court did not accept Virginia's argument that the antimiscegenation laws applied equally among races by punishing both the white and the black person attempting to marry and therefore did not discriminate based on race. The Court determined that marriage is a basic civil right in the United States, and the denial of this fundamental right on the basis of race violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.


Baer, Judith A. Equality under the Constitution. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983.

Mezey, Susan Gluck. In Pursuit of Equality. New York: St. Martin's, 1992.

Moran, Rachel F. Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Sollors, Werner, ed. Interracialism: Black-White Intermarriage in American History, Literature, and Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Spann, Girardeau A. Race against the Court: Supreme Court and Minorities in Contemporary America. New York: New York University Press, 1993.

Akiba J.Covitz

Esa LianneSferra

Meredith L.Stewart

See alsoBrown v. Board of Education of Topeka ; Miscegenation .

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