Loving v Virginia
Richard Perry Loving and Mildred Jeter were lawfully married in Washington, D.C., on June 2, 1958. He was white, and she was black. They returned to Caroline County and began their lives as husband and wife. One month later, the sheriff arrested them and charged them with “attempting to evade the Virginia ban on interracial marriages.” Virginia law made it illegal for men and women of different races to marry or to leave the state and marry and then return. When the Lovings were arrested, twenty-four of the forty-eight states had laws forbidding interracial marriage.
On January 6, 1959, the Caroline County Circuit Court sentenced the Lovings to one year in prison, which was suspended for a period of twenty-five years if they left Virginia immediately and did not return. The Lovings were prohibited from returning to Virginia together but could visit their families separately. Back in Washington, D.C., the Lovings and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit arguing that the Virginia law violated the Constitution of Virginia and the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court of Appeals in Virginia ruled that the law did not deprive the couple of the equal protection of the laws. Justice Harry L. Carrico wrote that “Marriage, as creating the most important relation in life, as having more to do with the morals and civilization of a people than any other institution, has always been subject to the control of the Legislature.”
The Lovings appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and on June 12, 1967, Chief Justice Earl Warren ruled that “Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival.” The court overturned the convictions, and interracial marriage became legalized in the United States.