Pace v. Alabama

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Pace v. Alabama
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued January 16, 1883
Decided January 29, 1883
Full case name Pace v. State of Alabama
Citations 106 U.S. 583 (more)
1 S. Ct. 637; 27 L. Ed. 207; 16 Otto 583
Prior history Defendants convicted, 5 Circuit Court, 1881; sentenced each to two years in the state penitentiary; affirmed, Alabama Supreme Court (69 Ala 231, 233 (1882))
The court affirmed the conviction of the plaintiff and declared Alabama's anti-miscegenation statute constitutional.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Field, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
U.S Const. amend XIV; Ala. code 4184, 4189
Overruled by
McLaughlin v. Florida, 379 U.S. 184 (1964)
Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)

Pace v. Alabama, 106 U.S. 583 (1883), was a case in which the United States Supreme Court affirmed that Alabama's anti-miscegenation statute was constitutional. This ruling was rejected by the Supreme Court in 1964 in McLaughlin v. Florida and in 1967 in Loving v. Virginia.


The plaintiff, Tony Pace, an African-American man, and Mary Cox, a white woman, were residents of the state of Alabama, who had been arrested in 1881 because their sexual relationship violated the state's anti-miscegenation statute. They were charged with living together "in a state of adultery or fornication" and both sentenced to two years imprisonment in the state penitentiary in 1882. Because "miscegenation," that is marriage, cohabitation and sexual relations between whites and "negroes," was prohibited by Alabama's anti-miscegenation statute (Ala. code 4189), it would have been illegal for the couple to marry in Alabama. Interracial marital sex was deemed a felony, whereas extramarital sex ("adultery or fornication") was only a misdemeanor. Because of the criminalization of interracial relationships, they were penalized more severely for their extramarital relationship than a white or a black couple would have been.

The conviction was first affirmed on appeal by the Alabama Supreme Court. On further appeal to the United States Supreme Court, the court ruled that the criminalization of interracial sex did not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment 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 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 1967, these laws were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia.