On June 12, 1967, the US Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional all laws forbidding interracial marriage. The case was called Loving v. Virginia (1967). The decision was unanimous. Here are Chief Justice Warren’s famous words (technical references removed):
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. 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.
Gaining the Freedom to Marry came neither quickly nor easily for interracial couples. Check out LovingDay’s fantabulous interactive map. See how the nation was an ever-changing crazy patchwork of state laws until 1967. Just as for same-sex couples today, the validity of an interracial couple’s marriage often vanished when crossing state lines. But that wasn’t the worst of it.
Besides being subject to hate crimes and their marriages dissolving at the border, interracial couples could be imprisoned or banished. This is what happened to Mildred & Richard Loving, the plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia. Virginia may be for lovers, but it wasn’t for the Lovings. Legally married in DC, the Lovings set up house in VA and were indicted a few months later. The VA judge who found them guilty agreed to waive their 1 year jail sentences if they swore to leave VA and not return for 25 years. The big softie! Here were his words of great wisdom:
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.
Bible? Constitution? What’s the diff? Virginia held the national record for longevity of its antimiscegenation laws: 305 years.
Three cheers for love, Loving and the Lovings! May all loving couples one day enjoy the Freedom to Marry!
Cross-posted at BlueMassGroup.