Loving v. Virginia

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Loving v. Virginia
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued April 10, 1967
Decided June 12, 1967
Full case name Richard Perry Loving, Mildred Jeter Loving v. Virginia
Citations 388 U.S. 1 (more)
87 S. Ct. 1817; 18 L. Ed. 2d 1010; 1967 U.S. LEXIS 1082
Prior history Defendants convicted, Caroline County Circuit Court (January 6, 1959); motion to vacate judgment denied, Caroline County Circuit Court (January 22, 1959); affirmed in part, reversed and remanded, 147 S.E.2d 78 (Va. 1966)
Argument Oral argument
Holding
The Court declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute, the "Racial Integrity Act of 1924", unconstitutional, as a violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Warren, joined by unanimous
Concurrence Stewart
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XIV; Va. Code §§ 20-58, 20-59

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967),[1] was a landmark civil rights decision of the United States Supreme Court which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

The case was brought by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state's anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as "white" and people classified as "colored". The Supreme Court's unanimous decision held this prohibition was unconstitutional, overturning Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.

The decision was followed by an increase in interracial marriages in the U.S., and is remembered annually on Loving Day, June 12. It has been the subject of two movies as well as songs. Beginning in 2013, it was cited as precedent in U.S. federal court decisions holding restrictions on same-sex marriage in the United States unconstitutional.

Background[edit]

Anti-miscegenation laws in the United States had been in place in certain states since before the United States declared independence. At the time that the decision was handed down, 17 States, all Southern States, had such laws.

Plaintiffs[edit]

Mildred and Richard Loving in 1967

The plaintiffs in the case were Mildred Delores Loving, née Jeter (July 22, 1939 – May 2, 2008), a woman of African-American and Rappahannock Native American descent,[2][3][4] and Richard Perry Loving (October 29, 1933 – June 1975),[5] a white man.

The couple had three children: Donald, Peggy, and Sidney. Richard Loving died aged 41 in 1975, when a drunk driver struck his car in Caroline County, Virginia.[6] Mildred Loving lost her right eye in the same accident. She died of pneumonia on May 2, 2008, in Milford, Virginia, aged 68.[7]

Criminal proceedings[edit]

At the age of 18, Mildred became pregnant, and in June 1958 the couple traveled to Washington, D.C. to marry, thereby evading Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which made interracial marriage a crime. They returned to the small town of Central Point, Virginia. Based on an anonymous tip,[8] local police raided their home at night, hoping to find them having sex, which was also a crime according to Virginia law. When the officers found the Lovings sleeping in their bed, Mildred pointed out their marriage certificate on the bedroom wall. That certificate became the evidence for the criminal charge of "cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth" that was brought against them.

The Lovings were charged under Section 20-58 of the Virginia Code, which prohibited interracial couples from being married out of state and then returning to Virginia, and Section 20-59, which classified miscegenation as a felony, punishable by a prison sentence of between one and five years. The trial judge in the case, Leon M. Bazile, echoing Johann Friedrich Blumenbach's 18th-century interpretation of race, wrote:

On January 6, 1959, the Lovings 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. They did so, moving to the District of Columbia.

Appellate proceedings[edit]

In 1964,[9] frustrated by their inability to travel together to visit their families in Virginia and social isolation and financial difficulties in Washington, Mildred Loving wrote in protest to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).[8]

The ACLU filed a motion on behalf of the Lovings in the Virginia trial court to vacate the judgment and set aside the sentence on the grounds that the violated statutes ran counter to the Fourteenth Amendment. This set in motion a series of lawsuits which ultimately reached the Supreme Court.

On October 28, 1964, after the Lovings' motion still had not been decided, they brought 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 Justice Harry L. Carrico (later Chief Justice of the Court) wrote an opinion for the court upholding the constitutionality of the anti-miscegenation statutes and, after modifying the sentence, affirmed the criminal convictions. Ignoring United States Supreme Court precedent, Carrico cited as authority the Virginia Supreme Court's own decision in Naim v. Naim (1955), also arguing that the case at hand was not a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause because both the white and the non-white spouse were punished equally for the crime of miscegenation, an argument similar to that made by the United States Supreme Court in 1883 in Pace v. Alabama.[10]

The Lovings, supported by the ACLU, appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court. They did not attend the oral arguments in Washington, but their lawyer, Bernard S. Cohen, conveyed the message he had been given by Richard Loving to the court: "Mr. Cohen, tell the Court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can't live with her in Virginia."[11]

Precedents[edit]

U.S States, by the date of repeal of anti-miscegenation laws:
  No laws passed
  Before 1887
  1948 to 1967
  12 June 1967

Before Loving v. Virginia, there had been several cases on the subject of interracial relations. In Pace v. Alabama (1883), the Supreme Court ruled that the conviction of an Alabama couple for interracial sex, affirmed on appeal by the Alabama Supreme Court, did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Interracial marital sex was deemed a felony, whereas extramarital sex ("adultery or fornication") was only a misdemeanor. On appeal, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the criminalization of interracial sex was not a violation of the equal protection clause because whites and non-whites were punished in equal measure for the offense of engaging in interracial sex. The court did not need to affirm the constitutionality of the ban on interracial marriage that was also part of Alabama's anti-miscegenation law, since the plaintiff, Mr. Pace, had chosen not to appeal that section of the law. After Pace v. Alabama, the constitutionality of anti-miscegenation laws banning marriage and sex between whites and non-whites remained unchallenged until the 1920s.

In Kirby v. Kirby (1921), Mr. Kirby asked the state of Arizona for an annulment of his marriage. He charged that his marriage was invalid because his wife was of "negro" descent, thus violating the state's anti-miscegenation law. The Arizona Supreme Court judged Mrs. Kirby's race by observing her physical characteristics and determined that she was of mixed race, therefore granting Mr. Kirby's annulment.[12]

In the Monks case (Estate of Monks, 4. Civ. 2835, Records of California Court of Appeals, Fourth district), the Superior Court of San Diego County in 1939 decided to invalidate the marriage of Marie Antoinette and Allan Monks because she was deemed to have "one eighth negro blood". The court case involved a legal challenge over the conflicting wills that had been left by the late Allan Monks; an old one in favor of a friend named Ida Lee, and a newer one in favor of his wife. Lee's lawyers charged that the marriage of the Monkses, which had taken place in Arizona, was invalid under Arizona state law because Marie Antoinette was "a Negro" and Alan had been white. Despite conflicting testimony by various expert witnesses, the judge defined Mrs. Monks' race by relying on the anatomical "expertise" of a surgeon. The judge ignored the arguments of an anthropologist and a biologist that it was impossible to tell a person's race from physical characteristics.[13]

Monks then challenged the Arizona anti-miscegenation law itself, taking her case to the California Court of Appeals, Fourth District. Monks' lawyers pointed out that the anti-miscegenation law effectively prohibited Monks as a mixed-race person from marrying anyone: "As such, she is prohibited from marrying a negro or any descendant of a negro, a Mongolian or an Indian, a Malay or a Hindu, or any descendants of any of them. Likewise ... as a descendant of a negro she is prohibited from marrying a Caucasian or a descendant of a Caucasian...." The Arizona anti-miscegenation statute thus prohibited Monks from contracting a valid marriage in Arizona, and was therefore an unconstitutional constraint on her liberty. However, the court dismissed this argument as inapplicable, because the case presented involved not two mixed-race spouses but a mixed-race and a white spouse: "Under the facts presented the appellant does not have the benefit of assailing the validity of the statute."[14] Dismissing Monks' appeal in 1942, the United States Supreme Court refused to reopen the issue.

The turning point came with Perez v. Sharp (1948), also known as Perez v. Lippold. In Perez, the Supreme Court of California recognized that bans on interracial marriage violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution.

Decision[edit]

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Lovings' convictions in a unanimous decision (dated June 12, 1967), 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. The court ruled that Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Chief Justice Earl Warren's opinion for the unanimous court held that:

The court concluded that anti-miscegenation laws were racist and had been enacted to perpetuate white supremacy:

Associate Justice Potter Stewart filed a brief concurring opinion. He reiterated his opinion from McLaughlin v. Florida that "it is simply not possible for a state law to be valid under our Constitution which makes the criminality of an act depend upon the race of the actor."

Implications of the decision[edit]

For interracial marriage[edit]

Despite the Supreme Court's decision, anti-miscegenation laws remained on the books in several states, although the decision had made them unenforceable. In 2000, Alabama became the last state to adapt its laws to the Supreme Court's decision, by removing a provision prohibiting mixed-race marriage from its state constitution through a ballot initiative. 60% of voters voted for the removal of the anti-miscegenation rule, and 40% against.[15]

After Loving v. Virginia, the number of interracial marriages continued to increase across the United States[16] and in the South. In Georgia, for instance, the number of interracial marriages increased from 21 in 1967 to 115 in 1970.[17] At the national level, 0.4% of marriages were interracial in 1960, and 2.0% in 1980.[18] In the 2010 census, 10% of opposite-sex married couples had partners of a different race,[19] 25 times more than in 1960.

For same-sex marriage[edit]

Loving v. Virginia is discussed in the context of the public debate about same-sex marriage in the United States.[20]

In Hernandez v. Robles (2006), the majority opinion of the New York Court of Appeals—that state's highest court—declined to rely on the Loving case when deciding whether a right to same-sex marriage existed, holding that "the historical background of Loving is different from the history underlying this case."[21] In the 2010 federal district court decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger—which overturned California's Proposition 8 (which restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples)—Judge Vaughn R. Walker cited Loving v. Virginia to conclude that "the [constitutional] right to marry protects an individual's choice of marital partner regardless of gender".[22] On more narrow grounds, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.[23][24]

In June 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the issuance of the Supreme Court's decision in Loving, commenting on the comparison between interracial marriage and same-sex marriage, Mildred Loving issued a statement in relation to Loving v. Virginia and its mention in the ongoing court case Hollingsworth v. Perry:

In December 2013, the United States District Court for the District of Utah repeatedly cited Loving in its decision Kitchen v. Herbert, which held unconstitutional Utah's ban on same-sex marriage. In February 2014, Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, writing for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Bostic v. Rainey (which struck down Virginia's ban), not only cited Loving, but also prefaced her opinion with Mildred Loving's above-mentioned statement of 2007.[25] In May 2014, Pulaski County Circuit judge Chris Piazza likewise cited Loving as precedent when holding Arkansas's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in Wright v. Arkansas.[26]

In popular culture[edit]

In the United States, June 12, the date of the decision, has become known as Loving Day, an annual unofficial celebration of interracial marriages.

The story of the Lovings became the basis of two films. Mr. & Mrs. Loving (1996) was written and directed by Richard Friedenberg, and starred Lela Rochon, Timothy Hutton, and Ruby Dee. According to Mildred Loving, "Not much of it was very true. The only part of it right was I had three children."[27][28] The second film, The Loving Story, premiered on HBO on February 14, 2012.[29]

In music, the case has been the subject of Drew Brody's 2007 folk-music Ballad of Mildred Loving (Loving in Virginia), and Nanci Griffith's 2009 song "The Loving Kind". Griffith wrote the song after reading Mildred Loving's obituary in the New York Times, and received the ACLU's Bill of Rights Award for it.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Full text of the opinion in Loving v. Virginia courtesy of Findlaw.com.
  2. ^ Lawing, Charles B. (2000). "Loving v. Virginia and the Hegemony of "Race"" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-05-31. 
  3. ^ Pioneer of interracial marriage looks back
  4. ^ "Social Security Death Index (Mildred D. Loving) [database on-line]". United States: The Generations Network. Retrieved May 6, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Social Security Death Index (Richard Loving) [database on-line]". United States: The Generations Network. Retrieved May 6, 2009. 
  6. ^ "RICHARD P. LOVING; IN LAND MARK SUIT; Figure in High Court Ruling on Miscegenation Dies". The New York Times. July 1, 1975. 
  7. ^ Douglas Martin (May 6, 2008). "Mildred Loving, Who Battled Ban on Mixed-Race Marriage, Dies at 68". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2008. "Mildred Loving, a black woman whose anger over being banished from Virginia for marrying a white man led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling overturning state miscegenation laws, died on May 2 at her home in Central Point, Va. She was 68." 
  8. ^ a b Martin, Douglas. "Mildred Loving, Who Battled Ban on Mixed-Race Marriage, Dies at 68", New York Times, May 6, 2008.
  9. ^ "Mildred Loving, Key Figure in Civil Rights Era, Dies", PBS Online News Hour, May 6, 2008
  10. ^ Loving v. Commonwealth 206 Va. 924 (1966)
  11. ^ Kate Sheppard, "'The Loving Story': How an Interracial Couple Changed a Nation", Mother Jones, Feb 13, 2012. Also quoted in Loving v. Virginia (1967), Encyclopedia Virginia
  12. ^ Pascoe 1996, pp. 49–51
  13. ^ Pascoe 1996, p. 56
  14. ^ Pascoe 1996, p. 60
  15. ^ Sengupta, Somini (November 12, 2000). "November 5–11; Marry at Will". New York Times. Retrieved May 27, 2009. "The margin by which the measure passed was itself a statement. A clear majority, 60 percent, voted to remove the miscegenation statute from the state constitution, but 40 percent of Alabamans -- nearly 526,000 people -- voted to keep it." 
  16. ^ "Interracial marriage flourishes in U.S.". MSNBC. April 15, 2007. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  17. ^ Aldridge, The Changing Nature of Interracial Marriage in Georgia: A Research Note, 1973
  18. ^ http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/race/interractab1.txt
  19. ^ http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/2010_census/cb12-68.html
  20. ^ Trei, Lisa (June 13, 2007). "Loving v. Virginia provides roadmap for same-sex marriage advocates". News.stanford.edu. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  21. ^ Hernandez v. Robles, 855 NE.3d 1 (N.Y. 2006). Retrieved July 12, 2008.
  22. ^ Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 704 F.Supp.2d 921 (N.D.Cal. 2010).
  23. ^ Nagoruney, Adam (February 7, 2012). "Court Strikes Down Ban on Gay Marriage in California". New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  24. ^ Perry v. Brown, 671 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir. 2012). Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  25. ^ Barnes, Robert (14 February 2014). "Federal judge strikes down Va. ban on gay marriage". Retrieved 14 February 2014. 
  26. ^ Winter, Michael (9 May 2014). "Arkansas judge strikes down state's ban on gay marriage". USA Today. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  27. ^ Dionne Walker (June 10, 2007). "Pioneer of interracial marriage looks back". USAToday.com. Retrieved May 8, 2008. 
  28. ^ "40 years of interracial marriage: Mildred Loving reflects on breaking the color barrier". International Herald-Tribune. Associated Press. June 9, 2007. Retrieved April 28, 2008. "'Not much of [the film] was very true,' she said on a recent Thursday afternoon. 'The only part of it right was I had three children.'" 
  29. ^ "Scenes From a Marriage That Segregationists Tried to Break Up". The New York Times. February 13, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Aldridge, Delores (1973). "The Changing Nature of Interracial Marriage in Georgia: A Research Note". Journal of Marriage and the Family 35 (4): 641–642. doi:10.2307/350877. 
  • Annella, M. (1967). "Interracial Marriages in Washington, D.C.". Journal of Negro Education 36: 428–433. doi:10.2307/2294264. 
  • Barnett, Larry (1963). "Research on International and Interracial Marriages". Marriage and Family Living 25 (1): 105–107. doi:10.2307/349019. 
  • Brower, Brock (2003). "'Irrepressible Intimacies'. Review of Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption, by Randall L. Kennedy". Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 40: 120–124. doi:10.2307/3134064. 
  • Coolidge, David Orgon (1998). "Playing the Loving Card: Same-Sex Marriage and the Politics of Analogy". BYU Journal of Public Law 12: 201–238. 
  • DeCoste, F. C. (2003). "The Halpren Transformation: Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Society, and the Limits of Liberal Law". Alberta Law Review 41: 619–642. 
  • Foeman, Anita Kathy & Nance, Teresa (1999). "From Miscegenation to Multiculturalism: Perceptions and Stages of Interracial Relationship Development". Journal of Black Studies 29 (4): 540–557. doi:10.1177/002193479902900405. 
  • Hopkins, C. Quince (2004). "Variety in U.S Kinship Practices, Substantive Due Process Analysis and the Right to Marry". BYU Journal of Public Law 18: 665–679. 
  • Kalmijn, Matthijs (1998). "Intermarriage and Homogamy: Causes, Patterns, Trends". Annual Review of Sociology 24: 395–421. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.24.1.395. 
  • Koppelman, Andrew (1988). "The Miscegenation Analogy: Sodomy Law as Sex Discrimination". Yale Law Journal 98: 145–164. 
  • Pascoe, Peggy (1996). "Miscegenation Law, Court Cases, and Ideologies of 'Race' in Twentieth-Century America". Journal of American History 83 (1): 44–69. doi:10.2307/2945474. 
  • Walington, Walter (November 1967). Domestic Relations. 
  • Wildman, Stephanie (2002). "Interracial Intimacy and the Potential for Social Change: Review of Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance by Rachel F. Moran". Berkeley Women's Law Journal 17: 153–164. doi:10.2139/ssrn.309743. 
  • Yancey, George & Yancey, Sherelyn (1998). "Interracial Dating: Evidence from Personal Advertisements". Journal of Family Issues 19 (3): 334–348. doi:10.1177/019251398019003006. 

External links[edit]

  • Text of Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967) is available from:  Findlaw  UMKC