Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1; 87 S. Ct. 1817; 18 L. Ed. 2d 1010 (1967)

Facts—Two residents of Virginia, a black woman and a white man, Richard Loving, were married in the District of Columbia. They then returned to Caroline County, Virginia, where they were indicted for violation of Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages. The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia upheld their conviction. The central provision of the state’s Racial Integrity Act was the absolute prohibition of a “white person” marrying other than another “white person.”

Question—Does the Virginia law that prevents marriages between persons solely on the basis of racial classification violate the Fourteenth Amendment?


ReasonsC.J. Warren (9–0). The statutes violate both the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. “Virginia’s miscegenation statutes rest solely upon distinctions drawn according to race. . . .

There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the equal protection clause.        The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the

vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.       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.”

Note—This decision had the effect of invalidating antimiscegenation laws not only in Virginia but also in some fifteen states.

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