Fifty years ago today, the United States Supreme Court struck down laws prohibiting interracial couples from marrying. In Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (6/12/67), a unanimous Supreme Court, in a decision written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, invalidated a Virginia law that provided "if any white person intermarry with a colored person, or any colored person intermarry with a white person, he shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years."
The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals had upheld the statute, stating that its purpose was "‘to preserve the racial integrity of its citizens,’ and to prevent ‘the corruption of blood,’ ‘a mongrel breed of citizens,’ and ‘the obliteration of racial pride.’" The U.S. Supreme Court called this rationale an obvious "endorsement of the doctrine of White Supremacy." In declaring the Virginia law unconstitutional, the Supreme Court stated that "there can be no question but that Virginia's miscegenation statutes rest solely upon distinctions drawn according to race. The statutes proscribe generally accepted conduct if engaged in by members of different races. Over the years, this Court has consistently repudiated ‘(d)istinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry’ as being ‘odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.’" Rejecting various arguments advanced by the State of Virginia, the Supreme Court insisted that "there is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies" the classifications set out by the Virginia law.
Social attitudes have changed in the 50 years since this landmark decision. Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, the respected Pew Research Center finds that 17 percent of couples marrying in 2015 included spouses of different races or ethnicity.
Read the relatively brief but forceful entire decision of the Supreme Court here.
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