Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), is a landmark civil rights decision of the United States Supreme Court, which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
The case was brought by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state’s anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as “white” and people classified as “colored”. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision determined that this prohibition was unconstitutional, reversing Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.
The decision was followed by an increase in interracial marriages in the U.S., and is remembered annually on Loving Day, June 12. It has been the subject of two movies, as well as several songs. Beginning in 2013, it was cited as precedent in U.S. federal court decisions holding restrictions on same-sex marriage in the United States unconstitutional, including in the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges.
Following the ruling, there was a 448 per cent increase in the number of interracial marriages in Georgia alone.
In 2007, 32 years after her husband died, Mrs. Loving – who herself passed away the following year – released a statement in support of same-sex marriage.
She said: ‘Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry
‘I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry.