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When was freedom of marriage made possible?

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In 1958, an interracial couple, a black woman, Mildred Jeter, and a white man, Richard Loving, decided to get married in the District of Columbia. The newlyweds were soon after slapped with a lawsuit after returning back to their home in Virginia and wanting to establish a marital abode. They were charged with anti-miscegenation statue, which bans the marriage of interracial couples in the state. The couple pleaded guilty and were sentenced to jail for a year. The trial judge, Leon M. Bazile, granted to suspend the sentence for 25 years if the couple left the state and did not return together for 25 years. The judge’s reasoning to the harsh verdict:


“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”


The Lovings immediately left their home in Virginia for the District of Columbia. The couple began to feel trapped due to the isolation that the Virginian court sentenced them to. As a response, Jeter wrote a letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who then referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU deemed that the Virginian statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment, also known as the Equal Protection Clauase, so the couple filed a motion in the state trial court on a basis that the law violated the Fourteenth Amendment. They decided to make the case a class action suit in the United States District Court to declare that the Virginian anti-miscegenation statute was unconstitutional and that officials should not be able to enforce that law. However, the state trial judge denied the motion, making the Lovings to file for a motion in the highest state court, the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia. The three-judge district court heard the Lovings’ constitutionality claim, though, Virginia Supreme Court Justice, Harry L. Carrico, upheld the statue and the Lovings’ conviction. He cited a similar court case that had also taken place in Virginia, Naim v. Naim. The statute did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment because the couple were both treated equally in court and had the same punishment.


Finally, the Lovings reached the United States Supreme Court to try the Virginia law that banned interracial couples was unconstitutional. Chief Justice Earl Warren decided that the statute is unconstitutional because of the Fourteenth Amendment grants everyone an equal protection, including freedom to marry; it should not be the State’s decision. He referred to Pace v. Alabama, in which, set up the Fourteenth Amendment to forbid discrimination within the states. Warren also stated that the Virginian law does not serve any purpose to protect the citizens living in Virginia. Because the Virginian law only stood due to racial discrimination, it violated the Equal Protection Clause. Marriage is a basic right that any individual has, it is unconstitutional to ban an interracial couple because it limited the freedom to marry.

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"Loving v. Virginia." LII / Legal Information Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 June 2014.



Joseph M. Ghabour
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