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Loving v. Commonwealth

  • <em>Loving</em> v. <em>Commonwealth of Virginia</em>, 1958–1966
  • <em>Loving</em> v. <em>Commonwealth of Virginia</em>, 1958–1966
  • <em>Loving</em> v. <em>Commonwealth of Virginia</em>, 1958–1966
  • <em>Loving</em> v. <em>Commonwealth of Virginia</em>, 1958–1966
  • <em>Loving</em> v. <em>Commonwealth of Virginia</em>, 1958–1966
The landmark Supreme Court Case Loving, v. Virginia ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.
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    Walter Plecker Asserted that Virginia Indians No Longer Exist, December 1943
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Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 1958–1966

On May 23, 2007, House Resolution 431 was introduced by Representative Tammy Baldwin, of Wisconsin's Second District, officially to recognize and commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia.

Loving v. Virginia, was a criminal case that began in 1958 as Commonwealth v. Loving and Jeter in Caroline County, Virginia. The case ended in a landmark civil rights decision by the United States Supreme Court declaring that Virginia's 1924 Act to Preserve Racial Integrity making interracial marriage a criminal office was unconstitutional, thereby ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.

Mildred Delores Jeter, an African American woman, married Richard Perry Loving, a white man, both of whom were residents of the commonwealth of Virginia had been married in June 1958 in the District of Columbia. They were married in the District, to evade the Racial Integrity Act, a state law banning that banned marriages between any white and any nonwhite person. After their return to Caroline County, they were arrested for violating two sections of the law that prohibited interracial couples from being married out of state and then returning to Virginia, and that defined interracial marriage as "miscegenation," a felony punishable by a prison sentence of between one and five years. The trial records identified the couple as Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving. On January 6, 1959, they pleaded 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. Trial judge Leon M. Bazile wrote in his court opinion that God had created different colors of people and placed them on different continents and therefore never intended for the races to intermarry.

The Lovings moved to the District of Columbia, and on November 6, 1963, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion on their behalf in the state trial court to vacate the judgment and set aside the sentence on the grounds that the statutes under which they were convicted violated the Fourteenth Amendment. On October 28, 1964, after their motion still had not been decided, the Lovings began a class action suit in the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. On January 22, 1965, the three-judge district court decided to allow the Lovings to present their constitutional claims to the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals justice Harry L. Carrico (later chief justice of the court) wrote an opinion for the court upholding the constitutionality of the statutes and, after modifying the sentence, affirmed the criminal convictions.

On June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions in a unanimous decision, dismissing the Commonwealth of Virginia's argument and holding that Virginia's statute violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Furthermore, the Supreme Court concluded that the laws against interracial marriage were racist and had been enacted to perpetuate white supremacy.

This resolution begins with a presentation of the long history of these laws that were designed to prevent interracial marriage. It ends with a look at the lasting impact of the Loving decision. The resolution was cosponsored by fifteen members of Congress, and was agreed to by the House of Representatives on June 11, 2007.

For Educators

Questions

1. Who were Richard and Mildred Loving?

2. Why did they travel to the District of Columbia to get married?

Further Discussion

Links

Library of Congress Bibliographic Information-Bill Number H.RES.431

Suggested Reading

Wallenstein, Peter. Tell the Court I Love My Wife: Race, Marriage, and Law—An American History. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

Gold, Susan Dudley. Loving v. Virginia: Lifting the Ban Against Interracial Marriage. Tarrytown, N.Y.: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2008.

Newbeck, Phyl. Virginia Hasn't Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004.

110TH CONGRESS
1ST SESSION H. RES. 431

Recognizing the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia legalizing interracial
marriage within the United States.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

MAY 23, 2007
Ms. BALDWIN (for herself and Mr. LEWIS of Georgia) submitted the following
resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

RESOLUTION
Recognizing the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia
legalizing interracial marriage within the United States.
Whereas the first anti-miscegenation law in the United States
was enacted in Maryland in 1661;
Whereas miscegenation was typically a felony under State
laws prohibiting interracial marriage punishable by imprisonment
or hard labor;
Whereas in 1883, the Supreme Court held in Pace v. Alabama
that anti-miscegenation laws were consistent with
the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment as
long as the punishments given to both white and black
violators are the same;
Whereas in 1912, a constitutional amendment was proposed
in the House of Representatives prohibiting interracial
marriage ‘‘between negroes or persons of color and Caucasians'';
Whereas in 1923, the Supreme Court held in Meyer v. Nebraska
that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment
guarantees the right of an individual ‘‘to marry, establish
a home and bring up children'';
Whereas in 1924, Virginia enacted the Racial Integrity Act
of 1924, which required that a racial description of every
person be recorded at birth and prevented marriage between
‘‘white persons'' and non-white persons;
Whereas in 1948, the California Supreme Court overturned
the State's anti-miscegenation statutes, thereby becoming
the first State high court to declare a ban on interracial
marriage unconstitutional and making California the first
State to do so in the 20th century;
Whereas the California Supreme Court stated in Perez v.
Sharp that ‘‘a member of any of these races may find
himself barred from marrying the person of his choice
and that person to him may be irreplaceable. Human
beings are bereft of worth and dignity by a doctrine that
would make them as interchangeable as trains'';
Whereas by 1948, 38 States still forbade interracial marriage,
and 6 did so by State constitutional provision;
Whereas in June of 1958, 2 residents of the Commonwealth
of Virginia—Mildred Jeter, a black/Native American
woman, and Richard Perry Loving, a Caucasian man—
were married in Washington, DC;
Whereas upon their return to Virginia, Richard Perry Loving
and Mildred Jeter Loving were charged with violating
Virginia's anti-miscegenation statutes, a felonious crime;
Whereas the Lovings subsequently pleaded guilty and were
sentenced to 1 year in prison, with the sentence suspended
for 25 years on condition that the couple leave
the State of Virginia;
Whereas Leon Bazile, the trial judge of the case, 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.'';
Whereas the Lovings moved to the District of Columbia, and
in 1963 they began a series of lawsuits challenging their
convictions;
Whereas the convictions were upheld by the State courts, including
the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia;
Whereas the Lovings appealed the decision to the Supreme
Court of the United States on the ground that the Virginia
anti-miscegenation laws violated the Equal Protection
and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment
and were therefore unconstitutional;
Whereas in 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari
to Loving v. Virginia and readily overturned the Lovings'
convictions;
Whereas in the unanimous opinion, Chief Justice Earl Warren
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.'';
Whereas the opinion also stated that ‘‘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.'';
Whereas in 1967, 16 States still had law prohibiting interracial
marriage, including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware,
Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri,
North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee,
Texas, and West Virginia;
Whereas Loving v. Virginia struck down the remaining
 antimiscegenation laws nationwide;
Whereas in 2000, Alabama became the last State to remove
its anti-miscegenation laws from its statutes;
Whereas according to the U.S. Census Bureau, from 1970 to
2000 the percentage of interracial marriages has increased
from 1 percent of all marriages to more than 5
percent;
Whereas the number of children living in interracial families
has quadrupled between 1970 to 2000, going from
900,000 to more than 3 million; and
Whereas June 12th has been proclaimed ‘‘Loving Day'' by
cities and towns across the country in commemoration of
Loving v. Virginia: Now, therefore, be it
1  Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
2   (1) observes the 40th Anniversary of the U.S.
3  Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia; and
1   (2) commemorates the legacy of Loving v. Virginia
2 in ending the ban on interracial marriage in
3  the United States and in recognizing that marriage
4  is one of the ‘‘basic civil rights of man'' at the heart
5  of the 14th Amendment protections.