On This Date in Legal History

In 1958 Mildred Jeter, part Black and part Native American, and Richard Loving, a white man, married in Washington, D.C. Afterwards, they returned to Virginia where they planned to settle down. According to state law, interracial marriages were forbidden at the time. So a grand jury indicted them for violating the ban. They pled guilty and were sentenced to one year in prison. The judge suspended their sentences if they left Virginia, so they did. The trial judge stated—“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 didn’t intend for the races to mix.” After the trial judge issued his written opinion, the couple filed a motion in state court to set aside their convictions, but the request was denied. They appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia. That Court upheld the constitutionality of the law and affirmed the couple’s convictions. The Lovings appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Mildred_Jeter_and_Richard_Loving

Photo of the Lovings on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court reversed the lower courts’ decisions. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote—“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.” In addition, he stated–  “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.”

HBO filmed a documentary about the Lovings and their fight up through the Supreme Court decision. I recommend you watch this engaging and informative film called The Loving Story.

About Tina Nelson
Tina Nelson

Tina Nelson is an attorney and mom. She created the LAWSUIT™ board game to teach her three children about the law. The game was an instant success. Copyrights and a patent were obtained, and Professional Games, Inc. was born. Professional Games, Inc. created this blog to educate and keep its friends and customers regularly updated about our American legal system.
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