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Legal AnalysisMarriage Equality

Love & the Law: The Color of Love, So Sayeth the Law

By June 27, 2012May 29th, 2023No Comments

In the first part of this series, “Love & the Law,” I discussed the undergirding of the marital relationship – privacy. This second part of the series examines a case that challenged the legal definition involving what parties to a marriage should look like, literally. Loving v. Virginia, which was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court a little more than 45 years ago to this day, banned laws prohibiting blacks and whites to marry. The facts of the case are fairly straightforward:

In 1958, Mildred, who was African American, and Richard (Loving), who was white, lived in Virginia and were married in Washington D.C. They returned to Virginia to live and were charged and found guilty of violating Virginia state laws. The first law the Lovings violated was leaving the state to get married with the intent of returning to live as spouses when such a marriage was prohibited by Virginia state law, and theirs was such a marriage. In Virginia, interracial marriage was a felony, ergo, the second Virginia statute they violated, carrying with it prison time of 1 to 5 years. The Virginia court suspended their sentence for 25 years if, however, Mildred and Richard agreed to leave Virginia for the same length of time. The couple agreed and left, but they also appealed.

The Supreme Court of the United States found that the State of Virginia had no rational reason for a law prohibiting interracial marriage. The Court stated that it “cannot conceive of a valid legislative purpose…which makes the color of a person’s skin the test of whether his conduct is a criminal offense.” Clearly, to be found guilty of a crime for an immutable characteristic was and is ludicrous. The Court further held that the freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.

Accordingly, Loving resulted in the recognition that marriage is a fundamental right to be enjoyed by persons regardless of their racial or ethnic origins as detected by one’s skin color.


The Love & the Law Episodes: Brief Case History | Contraceptives | The Color of Love | The IRS v. NY |
Privacy? No. Sex? No. History? No. Liberty? Yep. Pt 1Privacy? No. Sex? No. History? No. Liberty? Yep. Pt 2


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