Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)

Facts: Loving, a white man, and Jeter, a black woman were marriage in the District of Columbia. Shortly after their marriage, the Lovings returned to Virginia and established their home. Subsequently, a grand jury indicted the Lovings with violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. The Lovings plead guilty to the charge and were sentenced to one year in jail; however, the trial judge suspended the sentence on the condition that the Lovings leave Virginia and not return together for 25 years. Virginia was one of 16 states at that time which prohibited and punished interracial marriages. Virginia argued that the statute did not constitute an invidious discrimination based upon race because it punished whites and blacks equally.

Issue: Whether a Virginia statute which prevents marriage between persons on the basis of racial classification violates the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Procedural History: The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia upheld the constitutionality of the antimiscegenation statute and affirmed the convicted.

Holding: The Lovings’ convictions were reversed.

Reasoning: The state is correct that marriage is a social relation subject to the State’s police power, however, powers are limited by the commands of the Fourteenth Amendment. Racial classifications are subjected to the “most rigid scrutiny” and there is no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination. Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival.

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