World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Richard and Mildred Loving

Article Id: WHEBN0018870332
Reproduction Date:

Title: Richard and Mildred Loving  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Caroline County, Virginia
Collection:
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Richard and Mildred Loving

Loving v. Virginia
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued April 10, 1967
Decided June 12, 1967
Full case name Richard Perry Loving, Mildred Jeter Loving v. Virginia
Citations 388 more)
87 S. Ct. 1817; 18 L. Ed. 2d 1010; 1967 U.S. LEXIS 1082
Prior history Defendants convicted, Caroline County Circuit Court (January 6, 1959); motion to vacate judgment denied, Caroline County Circuit Court (January 22, 1959); affirmed in part, reversed and remanded, 147 S.E.2d 78 (Va. 1966)
Argument Oral argument
Holding
The Court declared Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute, the "Racial Integrity Act of 1924", unconstitutional, thereby ending all race-based legal restriction on marriage in the United States.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Warren, joined by unanimous
Concurrence Stewart
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XIV; Va. Code §§ 20-58, 20-59

Loving v. Virginia, 388 interracial marriage.

The case was brought by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state's anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as "white" and people classified as "colored." The Supreme Court's unanimous decision held this prohibition was unconstitutional, overturning Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.

The decision was followed by an increase in interracial marriages in the U.S., and is remembered annually on Loving Day, June 12. It has been the subject of two movies as well as songs. In the 2010s, it again became relevant in the context of the debate about same-sex marriage in the United States.

Background

Anti-miscegenation laws in the United States had been in place in certain states since before the United States declared independence.

Plaintiffs

The plaintiffs in the case were Mildred Delores Loving, née Jeter (July 22, 1939 – May 2, 2008), a woman of African-American and Rappahannock Native American descent,[2][3][4] and Richard Perry Loving (October 29, 1933 – June 1975),[5] a white man.

The couple had three children: Donald, Peggy, and Sidney. Richard Loving died aged 41 in 1975, when a drunk driver struck his car in Caroline County, Virginia.[6] Mildred Loving lost her right eye in the same accident. She died of pneumonia on May 2, 2008, in Milford, Virginia, aged 68.[7]

Criminal proceedings

At the age of 18, Mildred became pregnant, and in June 1958 the couple traveled to Washington, D.C. to marry, thereby evading Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which made interracial marriage a crime. They returned to the small town of Central Point, Virginia. Based on an anonymous tip,[8] local police raided their home at night, hoping to find them having sex, which was also a crime according to Virginia law. When the officers found the Lovings sleeping in their bed, Mildred pointed out their marriage certificate on the bedroom wall. That certificate became the evidence for the criminal charge of "cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth" that was brought against them.

The Lovings were charged under Section 20-58 of the Virginia Code, which prohibited interracial couples from being married out of state and then returning to Virginia, and Section 20-59, which classified miscegenation as a felony, punishable by a prison sentence of between one and five years. The trial judge in the case, Leon M. Bazile, echoing Johann Friedrich Blumenbach's 18th-century interpretation of race:

On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pled 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. They did so, moving to the District of Columbia.

Appellate proceedings

In 1964,[9] frustrated by their inability to travel together to visit their families in Virginia and social isolation and financial difficulties in Washington, Mildred Loving wrote in protest to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).[8]

The ACLU filed a motion on behalf of the Lovings in the state trial court to vacate the judgment and set aside the sentence on the grounds that the violated statutes ran counter to the Fourteenth Amendment. This set in motion a series of lawsuits which ultimately reached the Supreme Court.

On October 28, 1964, after the Lovings' motion still had not been decided, they brought 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 Justice Harry L. Carrico (later Chief Justice of the Court) wrote an opinion for the court upholding the constitutionality of the anti-miscegenation statutes and, after modifying the sentence, affirmed the criminal convictions. Ignoring United States Supreme Court precedent, Carrico cited as authority the Virginia Supreme Court's own decision in Naim v. Naim (1955), also arguing that the case at hand was not a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause because both the white and the non-white spouse were punished equally for the crime of miscegenation, an argument similar to that made by the United States Supreme Court in 1883 in Pace v. Alabama.

The Lovings, supported by the ACLU, appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court. They did not attend the oral arguments in Washington, but their lawyer, Bernard S. Cohen, conveyed the message he had been given by Richard Loving to the court: "Mr. Cohen, tell the Court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can't live with her in Virginia."[10]

Precedents

Before Loving v. Virginia, there had been several cases on the subject of interracial relations. In Pace v. Alabama (1883), the Supreme Court ruled that the conviction of an Alabama couple for interracial sex, affirmed on appeal by the Alabama Supreme Court, did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Interracial marital sex was deemed a felony, whereas extramarital sex ("adultery or fornication") was only a misdemeanor. On appeal, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the criminalization of interracial sex was not a violation of the equal protection clause because whites and non-whites were punished in equal measure for the offense of engaging in interracial sex. The court did not need to affirm the constitutionality of the ban on interracial marriage that was also part of Alabama's anti-miscegenation law, since the plaintiff, Mr. Pace, had chosen not to appeal that section of the law. After Pace v. Alabama, the constitutionality of anti-miscegenation laws banning marriage and sex between whites and non-whites remained unchallenged until the 1920s.

In Kirby v. Kirby (1921), Mr. Kirby asked the state of Arizona for an annulment of his marriage. He charged that his marriage was invalid because his wife was of ‘negro’ descent, thus violating the state's anti-miscegenation law. The Arizona Supreme Court judged Mrs. Kirby’s race by observing her physical characteristics and determined that she was of mixed race, therefore granting Mr. Kirby’s annulment.[11]

In the Monks case (Estate of Monks, 4. Civ. 2835, Records of California Court of Appeals, Fourth district), the Superior Court of San Diego County in 1939 decided to invalidate the marriage of Marie Antoinette and Allan Monks because she was deemed to have "one eighth negro blood." The court case involved a legal challenge over the conflicting wills that had been left by the late Allan Monks, an old one in favor of a friend named Ida Lee and a newer one in favor of his wife. Lee's lawyers charged that the marriage of the Monkses, which had taken place in Arizona, was invalid under Arizona state law because Marie Antoinette was "a Negro" and Alan had been white. Despite conflicting testimony by various expert witnesses, the judge defined Mrs. Monks' race by relying on the anatomical "expertise" of a surgeon. The judge ignored the arguments of an anthropologist and a biologist that it was impossible to tell a person's race from physical characteristics.[12]

Monks then challenged the Arizona anti-miscegenation law itself, taking her case to the California Court of Appeals, Fourth District. Monks' lawyers pointed out that the anti-miscegenation law effectively prohibited Monks as a mixed-race person from marrying anyone: "As such, she is prohibited from marrying a negro or any descendant of a negro, a Mongolian or an Indian, a Malay or a Hindu, or any descendants of any of them. Likewise ... as a descendant of a negro she is prohibited from marrying a Caucasian or a descendant of a Caucasian...." The Arizona anti-miscegenation statute thus prohibited Monks from contracting a valid marriage in Arizona, and was therefore an unconstitutional constraint on her liberty. The court, however, dismissed this argument as inapplicable, because the case presented involved not two mixed-race spouses but a mixed-race and a white spouse: "Under the facts presented the appellant does not have the benefit of assailing the validity of the statute."[13] Dismissing Monks' appeal in 1942, the United States Supreme Court refused to reopen the issue.

The turning point came with Perez v. Sharp (1948), also known as Perez v. Lippold. In Perez, the Supreme Court of California recognized that bans on interracial marriage violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution.

Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions in a unanimous decision (dated June 12, 1967), dismissing the Commonwealth of Virginia's argument that a law forbidding both white and black persons from marrying persons of another race, and providing identical penalties to white and black violators, could not be construed as racially discriminatory. The court ruled that Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Chief Justice Earl Warren's opinion for the unanimous court held that:

The court concluded that anti-miscegenation laws were racist and had been enacted to perpetuate white supremacy:

Associate Justice Potter Stewart filed a brief concurring opinion. He reiterated his opinion from McLaughlin v. Florida that "it is simply not possible for a state law to be valid under our Constitution which makes the criminality of an act depend upon the race of the actor."

Implications of the decision

For interracial marriage

Despite the Supreme Court's decision, anti-miscegenation laws remained on the books in several states, although the decision had made them unenforceable. In 2000, Alabama became the last state to adapt its laws to the Supreme Court's decision, by removing a provision prohibiting mixed-race marriage from its state constitution through a ballot initiative. 60% of voters voted for the removal of the anti-miscegenation rule, and 40% against.[14]

After Loving v. Virginia, the number of interracial marriages continued to increase across the United States[15] and in the South. In Georgia, for instance, the number of interracial marriages increased from 21 in 1967 to 115 in 1970.[16]

For same-sex marriage

Loving v. Virginia is discussed in the context of the public debate about same-sex marriage in the United States.[17]

In Hernandez v. Robles (2006), the majority opinion of the New York Court of Appeals, that state's highest court, declined to rely on the Loving case when deciding whether a right to same-sex marriage existed, holding that "the historical background of Loving is different from the history underlying this case."[18] In the 2010, federal district court decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which overturned California's Proposition 8 (which restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples), Judge Vaughn R. Walker cited Loving v. Virginia to conclude that "the [constitutional] right to marry protects an individual's choice of marital partner regardless of gender".[19] On more narrow grounds, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.[20][21]

In June 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the issuance of the Supreme Court's decision in Loving, commenting on the comparison between interracial marriage and same-sex marriage, Mildred Loving issued a statement in relation to Loving v. Virginia and its mention in the ongoing court case Hollingsworth v. Perry:

In popular culture

  • In the United States, June 12, the date of the decision, has become known as Loving Day, an annual unofficial celebration of interracial marriages.
  • The story of the Lovings became the basis of two films. Mr. & Mrs. Loving (1996) was written and directed by Richard Friedenberg and starred Lela Rochon, Timothy Hutton and Ruby Dee. According to Mildred Loving, “Not much of it was very true. The only part of it right was I had three children.”[22][23] The second film, The Loving Story, premiered on HBO on February 14, 2012.[24]
  • In music, the case has been the subject of Drew Brody's 2007 folk-music Ballad of Mildred Loving (Loving in Virginia), and Nanci Griffith's 2009 song The Loving Kind. Griffith wrote the song after reading Mildred Loving's obituary in the New York Times, and received the ACLU's Bill of Rights Award for it.

References

Further reading

External links

  • Text of Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967) is available from:  UMKC 
  • ABC News: A Groundbreaking Interracial Marriage; Loving v. Virginia at 40. Interview with Mildred Jeter Loving & video of original 1967 broadcast. June 14, 2007.
  • Resources at Oyez including complete audio of the oral arguments.
  • Loving Day: June 12—commemorating legalization of interracial couples
  • The Loving Story—Nancy Buirski's documentary film
  • Loving Decision: 40 Years of Legal Interracial Unions. National Public Radio: All Things Considered, June 11, 2007.
  • The Fortieth Anniversary of Loving v. Virginia: The Legal Legacy of the Case that Ended Legal Prohibitions on Interracial Marriage Findlaw commentary by Joanna Grossman.
  • 40 years of interracial marriage: Mildred Loving reflects on breaking the color barrier AP article in International Herald Tribune
  • Internet Movie Database
  • article upon the death of Mildred Loving
  • Encyclopedia Virginia Loving v. Virginia
  • Mildred Loving's Obituary from The Economist
  • Chin, Gabriel and Hrishi Karthikeyan, (2002) Asian Law Journal vol. 9 "Preserving Racial Identity: Population Patterns and the Application of Anti-Miscegenation Statutes to Asian Americans, 1910-1950"

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.