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Marriage prohibition on the basis of race.

Part 2:
Text from the U.S. Supreme Court's
"Loving v. Virginia" decision of 1967.
The aftermath of the decision.

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1967-JUN-12: Text from the U.S. Supreme Court decision:

Some excerpts from the court ruling are:

"This case presents a constitutional question never addressed by this Court: whether a statutory scheme adopted by the State of Virginia to prevent marriages between persons solely on the basis of racial classifications violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. ... For reasons which seem to us to reflect the central meaning of those constitutional commands, we conclude that these statutes cannot stand consistently with the Fourteenth Amendment. ..."

"The two statutes under which appellants were convicted and sentenced are part of a comprehensive statutory scheme aimed at prohibiting and punishing interracial marriages. The Loving's were convicted of violating § 258 of the Virginia Code:

Leaving State to evade law. -- If any white person and colored person shall go out of this State, for the purpose of being married, and with the intention of returning, and be married out of it, and afterwards return to and reside in it, cohabiting as man and wife, they shall be punished as provided in § 20-59, and the marriage shall be governed by the same law as if it had been solemnized in this State. The fact of their cohabitation here as man and wife shall be evidence of their marriage.

Section 259, which defines the penalty for miscegenation, provides:

Punishment for marriage. -- If any white person intermarry with a colored person, or any colored person intermarry with a white person, he shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years. ..."

"Virginia is now one of 16 States which prohibit and punish marriages on the basis of racial classifications. Penalties for miscegenation arose as an incident to slavery, and have been common in Virginia since the colonial period. The present statutory scheme dates from the adoption of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, passed during the period of extreme nativism which followed the end of the First World War. The central features of this Act, and current Virginia law, are the absolute prohibition of a white person; marrying other than another white person; a prohibition against issuing marriage licenses until the issuing official is satisfied that the applicants' statements as to their race are correct, certificates of "racial composition" to be kept by both local and state registrars, and the carrying forward of earlier prohibitions against racial intermarriage."

"... the State [of Virginia] contends that, because its miscegenation statutes punish equally both the white and the Negro participants in an interracial marriage, these statutes, despite their reliance on racial classifications, do not constitute an invidious discrimination based upon race. The second argument advanced by the State assumes the validity of its equal application theory. The argument is that, if the Equal Protection Clause does not outlaw miscegenation statutes because of their reliance on racial classifications, the question of constitutionality would thus become whether there was any rational basis for a State to treat interracial marriages differently from other marriages. On this question, the State argues, the scientific evidence is substantially in doubt and, consequently, this Court should defer to the wisdom of the state legislature in adopting its policy of discouraging interracial marriages. ..."

"... we do not accept the State's contention that these statutes should be upheld if there is any possible basis for concluding that they serve a rational purpose. ..."

"There can be no question but 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. ..."

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

"The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.

Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival. ... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State. ..."

There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classifications." 1

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Aftermaths of Loving v. Virginia:

In 1967, the decision by the Supreme Court annulled the laws and constitutions of 16 contiguous south-eastern states that had still banned inter-racial marriages. The state of South Carolina still had an anti-miscegenation law on the books as late as 1998, although it could not be applied. By 2000-OCT, only the state of Alabama still had a clause in its constitution prohibiting a black person or descendent of a black person from marrying a white person. The people of Alabama voted during the general special election of 2000-NOV-07 to delete the clause from their constitution. However the vote was fairly narrow. Only 59% of voters supported the repeal. A majority of voters in 24 out of the state's 67 counties wanted to retain the clause in their constitution even though it had been ruled unconstitutional by the court. 2 Racial hatred dies hard in some localities.

A rapid change in the U.S. occurred over about four decades concerning interracial marriages:

bulletIn 1948, about 90% of American adults opposed interracial marriage when the Supreme Court of California legalized it. 3

bullet In 1967, about 72% were still opposed to interracial marriage and 48% felt that marrying a person of another race should be prosecuted as a criminal act. This was the year when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage everywhere in the U.S. 4,5

bullet About 1991, those adults opposed to interracial marriage finally became a minority, nationally. 4

bullet Opposition dropped at about 1 percentage point per year between 1948 and 1991. This is approximately the same rate as has occurred over same-sex marriage in recent decades.

bullet

A Pew Research survey conducted in 2011-SEP showed that:

  • 43% of American adults say that "more people of different races marrying each other has been a change for the better; 11% for the worse; 44% offered no opinion. 22% of Americans have a relative in a mixed-race marriage. One in seven new marriages in the U.S. are interracial or interethnic.

  • Only small minorities of: Adults who are White (12%), over 64 years-of-age (19%), with only high school or less education (15%), who identified themselves as conservative (14%) and from the South or Midwest (13%) felt that more interracial marriages are a change for the worse.

  • Even smaller minorities of: Adults who are Black (8%), under 29 years-of-age (5%), who graduated from college (4%), who identified themselves as liberal (7%) and from the West (6%) felt that more interracial marriages are a change for the worse. 6

bullet An unofficial national holiday celebrating the victory of the Loving's has been established on JUN-12. It is called "Loving Day." 7

bullet Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, the Commonwealth of Virginia introduced their tourism and travel slogan "Virginia is for Lovers." 8 Given the state's treatment of the Loving family, their choice of wording is rather ironic.

bullet

Richard and Mildred Loving were driving in their car during 1975 when it collided with another car driven by a drunk driver. Richard was killed and Mildred lost the sight in her right eye.

Mildred Loving died of pneumonia on 2008-MAY-02. Her daughter, Peggy Fortune, said:

"I want (people) to remember her as being strong and brave yet humble - and believed in love." 8

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Text of "Loving v. Virginia (No. 395) 206 Va. 924, 147 S.E.2d 78, reversed," U.S. Supreme Court, 1967-JUN-12, at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/
  2. "Alabama Interracial Marriage, Amendment 2 (2000)," Ballotpedia, as of 2012-DEC-09, at: http://ballotpedia.org/
  3. John Rogers, "Kung Fu Monkey" blog, 2005-MAR-16, at: http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/
  4. Gail Mathabane, "Gays face same battle interracial couples fought," USA Today, 2004-JAN-25.
  5. Sean Robert Cahill, "Same-sex marriage in the United States: Focus on the facts," Lexington Books, (2004), Page 12. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  6. Wendy Wong, "The rise of Intermarriage," Pew Research Center, 2012-FEB-12, at: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/
  7. "Mildred Loving, Biography," Bio., 2014, at: http://www.biography.com/
  8. "Virginia is for Lovers," Wikipedia, as on: 2014-APR-08, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  9. "Mildred Loving Obituary," Legacy.com, 2008, at: http://www.legacy.com/

Copyright 1997 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-MAY-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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