The case of Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter, a married interracial couple from Virginia, became part of the national conversation back in June 1967. The young couple were arrested and jailed because of their state’s anti-miscegenation law, which 16 states also had on their books.
Their case ultimately went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The High Court overturned the law and the couple’s conviction on June 12, 1967.
Though the civil rights movement helped the nation move to a more racially inclusive space, many states at the time still held fast to laws that banned interracial marriages.
Because of such laws, Loving, then 23, and Jeter, 17, married in Washington, D.C. where no such ban existed. Loving was white, while his wife was a woman of African-American and Native American descent.
When they returned to Virginia the couple was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to a year in jail. The judge in the case suspended the sentence for 25 years, but only if the couple agreed to leave the state.
During the appeal process, the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia ruled that the state moved to protect the “racial integrity” of its population. Because the law applied to both Blacks and whites, it was not seen as a violation to the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
The couple sought the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and lobbied the courts to hear their case. The nation’s High Court ruled unanimously in the Loving V. Virginia case by reversing the Virginia Court’s ruling, stating that the state’s Racial Integrity Act was unconstitutional.
The court also wrote in its opinion that the law was sparked by racial discrimination, and thus rendered any law supporting marriage bans based upon race essentially dead.
Loving died just eight years later as the result of an unfortunate automobile accident. Jeter never remarried, passing away in 2008. The couple didn’t seek fame as a result of the case, instead choosing to lead simple lives away from the spotlight.
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