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.
State statutes containing racial classifications and their equal application do not immunize the statute from the heavy burden of justification that the Fourteenth Amendment has traditionally required of state statutes drawn according to race.
Loving, an African American woman, married a white man in the District of Columbia. When they returned to Virginia, they were convicted of violating Virginia’s criminal ban on miscegenation. The trial court suspended their jail sentences on the condition that they leave Virginia and do not return for 25 years. The State contends that because the law applies equally to both whites and blacks in an interracial marriage, the State law does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment.
Does the Virginia law that prohibits marriages between persons solely based on the racial classifications violate the Fourteenth Amendment?
No, because mere equal application of a statute containing racial classifications is not enough to remove the classifications from the Fourteenth Amendment’s prohibition of all invidious racial discrimination. Thus, the State statute cannot be held valid.
The central purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to remove all official state sources of invidious racial discrimination in the States. The Virginia statute rests solely upon distinctions drawn according to race, because the statute bans generally accepted conduct if done by members of different races. Any racial classifications must be justified by necessary state objective. However, Virginia has shown no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination.