Today marks the 45th anniversary of the day the Supreme Court unanimously struck down Virginia’s law prohibiting interracial marriage.
Virginia, like many of the southern states, prohibited people of different races from marrying. In 1958, Richard Loving (who was white) wished to marry Mildred Jeter (who was black). They lived in Richmond and couldn’t marry there; they traveled to Washington D.C. and married. They then went back to their home in Caroline County. They were arrested in October, plead guilty, and were sentenced to 1 year in jail. Section 258 of the Virginia code stated this:
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.
The judge suspended the sentence on the condition that they leave Virginia for a period of 25 years and said this:
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 couple moved to Washington D.C. and Mr. Loving filed suit (ironically making this the case of Loving v. Virginia). The case was argued before the Supreme Court on April 10, 1967 and the Court unanimously struck down the Virginia law 45 years ago.
I can’t resist, but the hot marriage issue of this decade is gay marriage. Opponents of gay marriage argue that marriage has always been heterosexual (much like it used to be between people of the same race), it is the will of God, and that the federal government has no right to determine how states decide marriage. Loving v. Virginia shows that the classic definition is always under review.
Happy Loving Day everyone!