Author: Phyl Newbeck

a freelance writer and author of Virginia Hasn't Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving (2008)
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Loving v. Virginia (1967)

In Loving v. Virginia, decided on June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down Virginia’s law prohibiting interracial marriages as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The appellants, Richard and Mildred Loving, of Caroline County, had married in Washington, D.C., in June 1958 and then returned to Virginia, where they were arrested. After pleading guilty, they were forced to leave the state. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed motions and appeals on their behalf beginning in 1963, and after the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled against the Lovings in 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court heard their arguments. The case came after nearly 300 years of legislation in Virginia regulating interracial marriage and carefully defining which citizens could legally claim to be white. Two U.S. Supreme Court cases, Pace v. Alabama (1883) and Maynard v. Hill (1888), upheld the constitutionality of such laws. In 1924, the Act to Preserve Racial Integrity banned interracial marriage in Virginia while defining a white person as someone who had no discernible nonwhite ancestry. It was this law that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling said denied Virginians’ “fundamental freedom” to marry. Loving v. Virginia is a landmark case, both in the history of race relations in the United States and in the ongoing political and cultural dispute over the proper definition of marriage.

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