Loving v. Virginia


Plaintiffs were charged with and convicted of inter-racial marriage.  The two had gone to another state to obtain a marriage license and returned to their home state of Virginia afterward.  Later on they were confronted by police at their home.  The police found their marriage certificate and used it as evidence that they had violated the state’s law by getting married out of state.  They both served their time of one year in prison then moved to Washington DC after release.  At trial, the state of Virginia argued that the law did not violate the equal protection clause because it applied the same penalties to African Americans and whites.  The law itself only applied to marriage between a white person and any person of another race.  Therefore, under the VA law, any minority could marry another minority of a separate class.


Whether a state law that outlaws marriage between races violates the equal protection clause.


Yes, the law is invalidated because it violates both the equal protection clause and the due process clause of the United States constitution.  The court decision was unanimous.  The court argued that the right to marriage is a fundamental right of humanity and cannot be denied whatsoever to anyone on the basis of race, especially on the basis of the married parties’ race.  This freedom resides with the individual and is protected by the constitution and cannot be violated by state legislatures.  The court held that there could not be any legitimate state interest in proffering the law; and the only reason for it existing in the first place was to promote white supremacy.

The court also wrote that laws discriminating on the basis of race were subject to the “strictest” possible scrutiny.  The lowest level – “rational basis” – examination does not apply in this case, because the law strikes at the core of racial discrimination.

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