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Loving v. Virginia

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Brief Fact Summary.

The petitioner is an African American woman and married a white man in the District of Columbia. They moved to Virginia, where they were convicted of violating Virginia’s criminal ban on miscegenation.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The Equal Protection Clause demands that racial classifications must be shown to be necessary to the accomplishment of some permissible state objective, independent of the racial discrimination which it was the object of the Fourteenth Amendment to eliminate.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification.

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Facts.

In 1958, two residents of Virginia, Mildred Jeter, a Negro woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in the District of Columbia pursuant to its laws. Shortly after their marriage, they returned to Virginia and were charged with violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages. The trial judge suspended their sentence on the condition that they leave the State and not return to Virginia for 25 years. After their convictions, the Lovings took up residence in the District of Columbia. They instituted an action arguing that the Virginia antimiscegenation statutes unconstitutional and to enjoin state officials from enforcing their convictions.

Issue.

Does the Virginia statute that prevents marriages between persons solely based on racial classifications violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Held.

Yes, the Virginia statute that prevents marriages between persons solely based on racial classifications violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, because there is no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies the classification.

Concurrence.

Justice Stewart

It is simply not possible for a state law to be valid under our Constitution which makes the criminality of an act depend upon the race of the actor.

Discussion.

There can be no doubt that Virginia’s miscegenation statutes rest solely upon distinctions drawn according to race. The statutes proscribe generally accepted conduct if engaged in by members of different races. The Equal Protection Clause demands that racial classifications must be shown to be necessary to the accomplishment of some permissible state objective, independent of the racial discrimination which it was the object of the Fourteenth Amendment to eliminate. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy. The Court has consistently denied the constitutionality of measures which restrict the rights of citizens on account of 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.


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