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 offense 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.
1. Who were Richard and Mildred Loving?
2. Why did they travel to the District of Columbia to get married?
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.