The Truth About Loving v. Virginia and Why it Matters

The Truth About Loving v. Virginia and Why it Matters

Steven F. Riley

On June 12, 1967, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the landmark civil-rights case Loving v. Virginia that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law (known as the Racial Integrity Act of 1924) was unconstitutional. It did not as some suggest, legalize interracial marriage in the United States. It legalized interracial marriage in the 15 states that still had anti-miscegenation laws that prevented such unions.

Repeating this untruth actually undermines the legacy of our courageous American heroes Mildred and Richard Loving because it was their legal marriage in Washington, D.C. in June 1958 and subsequent prosecution in Virginia that began their saga on the road to the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the Lovings did not as some commentators also suggest, “win their right to marry” in their Supreme Court case because they were already married—and were raising three children. To reinforce the point, one need look no further than the now famous message Richard Loving relayed via his lawyers to the bench on April 10, 1967, when he stated simply, “Tell the court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”

Repeating this untruth obscures the legacy of the state legislatures that repealed their anti-miscegenation laws before Loving v. Virginia.

Repeating this untruth obscures the legacy of the states New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. which never enacted anti-miscegenation laws.

Repeating this untruth obscures the legacy of over 100 years of litigation against such laws including the unsuccessful Pace v. Alabama (1883), the War Brides Act (1945), the successful Perez v. Sharp (1948) which legalized interracial marriage in California, and McLaughlin v. Florida (1964) and which abrogated the cohabitation aspect of the Florida’s anti-miscegenation law. These cases and others laid the groundwork for the successful outcome of Loving v. Virginia.

Lastly, repeating this untruth obscures the legacy of centuries of lawful marriages across racial boundaries.

For posts about Loving v. Virginia click here.

©2013, Steven F. Riley