Today we celebrate love. More specifically, we celebrate Loving -- the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down bans of interracial marriage.
Today marks the 45th anniversary of that decision.
Your Constitutional Rights: a one-minute podcast about Loving v. Virginia
The Lovings' case began in 1958 when Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving married in Washington, D.C. When they returned to their home state of Virginia, however, police burst into their home as they slept and arrested them for violating the state's Racial Integrity Act.
"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents," said the judge in the case. "And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."
That judge agreed to suspend their one-year jail sentence if they both agreed to leave the state of Virginia for 25 years.At the time it came down, 16 states outlawed interracial marriage. They did leave, but were arrested five years later when they returned to Virginia to visit family.
At the time, 16 states outlawed interracial marriage.
Thankfully the Lovings fought back with the help of the ACLU. After the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the couple wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy for help. They asked if the landmark law would allow them to be in the same car together. Kennedy referred them to the National Capitol Area office of the ACLU, which took on their case.
And nine years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their case that outlawing interracial marriage unconstitutional.
"Marriage," wrote Chief Justice Earl Warren, "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."