Facts of the case
In 1958, two residents of Virginia, Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in the District of Columbia. The Lovings returned to Virginia shortly thereafter. The couple was then charged with violating the state’s antimiscegenation statute, which banned inter-racial marriages. The Lovings were found guilty and sentenced to a year in jail (the trial judge agreed to suspend the sentence if the Lovings would leave Virginia and not return for 25 years).
Why is the case important?
The state of Virginia enacted laws making it a felony for a white person to intermarry with a black person or the reverse. The constitutionality of the statutes was called into question.
Was rational basis the proper standard of review by which to evaluate the constitutionality of the statutes?
Were the Virginia miscegenation statutes constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause?
No and No.
The mere fact that a statute is one of equal application does not mean that the statute is exempt from strict scrutiny review. The statutes were clearly drawn upon race-based distinctions. The legality of certain behavior turned on the races of the people engaging in it. Equal Protection requires, at least, that classifications based on race be subject to the “most rigid scrutiny.”
The Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution (Constitution) prohibits classifications drawn by any statute that constitutes arbitrary and invidious discrimination. The fact that Virginia bans only interracial marriages involving whites is proof that the miscegenation statutes exist for no purposes independent of those based on arbitrary and invidious racial discrimination.
Concurrence. Justice Potter Stewart (J. Stewart) argued it is not possible for a state law to be valid, which makes the criminality of an act depend upon the race of the actor.
A state law making the criminality of an act depend upon the race of the actor is invalid. It is the very purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment to uphold one’s free will to marry, as well as eliminate racial discrimination and the Virginia statute clearly violated these principles.
- Advocates: Bernard S. Cohen For the Appellant Philip J. Hirschkop For the Appellant R.D. McIlwaine III For the Appellee William M. Marutani for the Japanese American Citizens League, as amicus curiae, urging reversal
- Appellant: Loving et ux.
- Appellee: Virginia
- DECIDED BY:Case pending
- Location: Virginia General Assembly
|Citation:||388 US 1 (1967)|
|Argued:||Apr 10, 1967|
|Decided:||Jun 12, 1967|