June 12, 1967– LOVING v. VIRGINIA is decided by SCOTUS
It was not just a landmark civil rights decision, invalidating laws prohibiting interracial marriage, it also served a serious blow to the majority of white Americans that felt that it was imperative to save the white race.
Few cases were more aptly named than LOVING v. VIRGINIA which pitted an interracial couple, African-American 17-year-old Mildred Jeter, and her childhood sweetheart, 23-year-old white construction worker Richard Loving, against Virginia’s Miscegenation Laws banning marriage between blacks and whites. After marrying in Washington, D.C. and returning to their home to Virginia in 1958, the Lovings were charged with unlawful cohabitation and jailed.
The Lovings left Virginia and went to live with relatives in Washington, D.C. When they returned to visit family five years later, they were arrested for traveling together. Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, Loving wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy for help. The couple was referred to the ACLU, which represented them in their Supreme Court case. The Court ruled that state bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional in a rare unanimous decision.
At issue in the Loving decision was Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act Of 1924, which prohibited interracial marriage and paved the way for a series of laws designed to prevent racial mixing. Anti-miscegenation laws had been common for centuries. But, when this act was signed into law, on the very same day, the Virginia legislature passed another act that allowed the state to forcibly sterilize people with disabilities, including people labeled with derogatory medical terms like “feebleminded”. Questions concerning the lawfulness of Virginia’s forced sterilization law led to another landmark Supreme Court decision in 1927, BUCK v. BELL, in which the Court upheld its legality with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes declaring “Three generations of imbeciles are enough”.
Virginia’s passage of both the Racial Integrity and Sterilization Acts Of 1924 addressed the concern that the white race was in danger of being weakened by inferior traits and that laws were needed to promote good racial hygiene and public health. Marriage restrictions and forced sterilization were part of the popular agenda of Eugenics which used pseudo-science to urge the law to weed out groups considered to have hereditary defects like any disability, poverty, and criminality. Eugenics was practiced in many nations across out pretty planet, and used immigration restrictions, incarceration, and eventually genocides like the Holocaust. Supporters worked to encourage the growth of “superior people” of a certain acceptable class, race, and ethnicity.
Still, the redemptive power that came out of the LOVING decision paved the way for OBERGEFELL v. HODGES, the 2015 SCOTUS decision recognizing Marriage Equality.
Today is remembered annually as Loving Day, June 12. Now, one in six marriages are Mixed-Race. I don’t know if this is PC or not, but I find the children of mixed-race parents to be especially beautiful.
LOVING v. VIRGINIA is the subject of several songs and three films, including the excellent Loving (2016).