Loving v. Virginia is the landmark Supreme Court case that struck down laws against interracial marriage in the United States.
Few cases were more aptly named than Loving v. Virginia, which pitted an interracial couple – 17-year-old Mildred Jeter, who was black, and her childhood sweetheart, 23-year-old white construction worker, Richard Loving – against Virginia's 'miscegenation' laws banning marriage between blacks and whites. After marrying in Washington, D.C. and returning to their home state in 1958, the couple was charged with unlawful cohabitation and jailed.
Striking down anti-miscegenation laws was an important blow to segregation and a victory for civil rights activists in the 1960s. And it has also been cited in many cases since, including Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, which made same-sex marriage legal in the United States.
Richard attended high school for a year and then started working construction. He knew Mildred’s family, and the two started spending time together when he was 17 and she was 11. Their relationship blossomed over several years, and Mildred became pregnant when she was 18. At that point, they decided to marry
Why do you think the Court recognized marriage as a fundamental right?
How did the Court ground its ruling in the Fourteenth Amendment?
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.
Mildred and her family are listed as Negro in the 1940 census.
On her marriage license it just says “Indian.”
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.