Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)

More than sixty (60) years ago, interracial marriages were prohibited in various states of America. It is only in 1967 in the case of Loving v. Virginia that the US Supreme Court recognized the discrimination brought by these statutes.


         Mildred Jeter, a Negro woman, and Richard Loving, a white man married on June 1958 in the District of Columbia. The newlyweds then established their marital abode in Caroline County. In October of the same year, the Lovings were charged of violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages. The Loving’s one-year sentence was suspended by the trial judge on the condition that the they leave the State and not return to Virginia together for 25 years, stating:

“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 marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

The Lovings were convicted for violating the following provisions of the Virginia Code:

  • 258 of the Virginia Code:

Leaving State to evade law. — If any white person and colored person shall go out of this State, for the purpose of being married, and with the intention of returning, and be married out of it, and afterwards return to and reside in it, cohabiting as man and wife, they shall be punished as provided in § 20-59, and the marriage shall be governed by the same law as if it had been solemnized in this State. The fact of their cohabitation here as man and wife shall be evidence of their marriage.”

Section 259, which defines the penalty for miscegenation, provides:

Punishment for marriage. — If any white person intermarry with a colored person, or any colored person intermarry with a white person, he shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years.”

The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia upheld the constitutionality of these provisions, citing the case of Naim vs Naim:

…that the State’s legitimate purposes were “to preserve the racial integrity of its citizens,” and to prevent “the corruption of blood,” “a mongrel breed of citizens,” and “the obliteration of racial pride,”

The State further contends:

“…because its miscegenation statutes punish equally both the white and the Negro participants in an interracial marriage, these statutes, despite their reliance on racial classifications, do not constitute an invidious discrimination based upon race.”


  1. Whether or not the equal application theory justifies the prohibition on interracial marriages.
  2. Whether or not the subject provisions violated the Due Process Clause.



            No, the Supreme Court held that the equal application theory does not justify the prohibition on interracial marriages. The Court made a distinction on provisions which has an element of racial discrimination against those that does not. It held that, “the mere fact of equal application does not mean that our analysis of these statutes should follow the approach we have taken in cases involving no racial discrimination…”.

            In cases not involving distinctions according to race, the test merely involves whether there is any rational foundation for the discriminations, and has then left the same to the wisdom of the legislatures. In this case, the subject provisions deal with racial classifications, and has held that “the fact of equal application does not immunize the statute from the very heavy burden of justification which the Fourteenth Amendment has traditionally required of state statutes drawn according to race.”

            The Court went on to say that the Equal Protection Clause demands that racial classifications be subjected to strict scrutiny. Upholding the same would require that such racial classification was necessary to the accomplishment of State objective, independent of the arbitrary and invidious racial discrimination. The said provisions prohibiting interracial marriages were ruled to violate the Equal Protection Clause.


            Yes, the subject provisions violated the Due Process Clause. The Court recognized that the Lovings were deprived of their freedom to marry without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court held that “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.”

            In view thereof, the convictions were reversed.

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