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Today in History: Loving V. Virginia Ruling Outlaws Bans On Interracial Unions

Holding Hands

Fifty-three years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Virginia law banning interracial marriage was unconstitutional. The case was Loving vs. Virginia. Today, people across the country are celebrating the unofficial holiday commemorating the landmark decision. 

Mildred and Richard Loving fought for nine years to live as a married couple in Caroline County, Virginia, before the 1967 Supreme Court ruling. Five weeks after the two were married, the couple was arrested by the local sheriff and forced to move out of state or face jail time. 

There were 16 states at the time that banned interracial marriage. In archival audio, Philip Hirschkop, an attorney for the Lovings, argued before the Court that the Virginia law was in place to ensure racial supremacy of the white race. 

“We fail to see how any reasonable man can but conclude that these laws are slavery laws were incepted to keep the slaves in their place, were prolonged to keep the slaves in their place, and in truth, the Virginia law still views the Negro race as a slave race,” Hirschkop said. 

The court unanimously ruled that the law violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. 

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2017, one in six marriages in the United States were interracial.

That’s a fivefold increase from the year the Loving case came down.

Excerpts from the oral argument in Loving v. Virginia are provided by Oyez, a free law project by Justia and the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School.


Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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