virginia's anti miscegenation law


“In the archive footage of this couple, there is this energy between them that is so beautiful and so alive. Joel and I wanted to re-create that out of a respect for the pair, but also because it looked like fun because they actually giggle, and just look like [they have] such a really lovely relationship.”

–  Ruth Negga on how she and Joel Edgerton strove to portray Mildred and Richard Loving in “Loving”


Loving v. Virginia was the landmark civil rights decision by the United States Supreme Court that invalidated laws preventing inter-racial marriage. Virginia had strict anti-miscegenation laws which prohibited marriage between ‘whites’ and 'coloreds’. The couple who brought these charges to the court was Mildred and Richard Loving—a black woman and her white husband—who were sentenced to a year in prison for marrying each other. The Supreme Court overturned the Lovings’ convictions in a unanimous decision on June 12, 1967, now colloquially known as “Loving Day”.

The case has been receiving renewed attention thanks to a number of recent works. From Chronical Books, Loving V. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Shadra Strickland is a gorgeous “documentary novel” based on the case. For younger readers, there’s The Case for Loving by Selina Alko with illustrations by the author and Sean Qualls, available from Scholastic Books. Finally, in theaters now, Loving directed by Jeff Nichols, starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, who is Oscar-nominated this year for her performance.
#LovingDay: 50 Years After The Loving Verdict, A Photo Essay Looks Back On Their Love
Remembering the couple who brought down anti-miscegenation laws in 16 U.S. states.

Monday, June 12, marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which quashed anti-miscegenation laws in 16 states around the nation, ushering restrictions against interracial marriage to the wrong side of history.

The date is now remembered as Loving Day in honor of Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple who defied the state’s ability to dictate the terms of their love based on their skin color. Mildred, who was of African American and Native American descent, and Richard, who was white, wed in 1958 in Washington D.C., because interracial marriage was illegal in their native rural Virginia, as well as 15 other Southern U.S. states.

When the Lovings returned to Virginia, however, local police raided their home one early morning after being tipped off by another resident. They declared the Lovings’ marriage license invalid within the scope of the state, placing the couple under arrest.

The Lovings pled guilty to “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth,” and were sentenced to one year in prison. A judge later agreed to suspend the sentence if Mildred and Richard left Virginia and did not return for 25 years.

The couple relocated to Washington, D.C., but they did not end their story there. In 1964, attorneys from the ACLU filed a motion on behalf of the Lovings, requesting the charges and sentences against the Lovings be dropped. The Lovings appealed the local ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, where their sentence was unanimously overturned in 1967.

“Under our Constitution,” Chief Justice Earl Warren said in his decision, “the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Two years before this verdict, in the spring of 1965, Life magazine photojournalist Grey Villet spent time with the Lovings, as well as their family and friends, documenting the lives of a couple whose love had transcended the everyday to become the stuff of legends.

Villet’s photo essay, titled “The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait,” captures Mildred and Richard when word of their civil rights battle was spreading throughout the country and the fate of their relationship remained unknown. Through black-and-white images, the photographer captures the subtle glances, spurts of laughter and moments of quiet determination that, together, comprise a love story whose power echoes today.

We commemorate the Lovings’ bravery and tenacity in the face of prejudice and the systems of white supremacy. Villet’s photos help us remember the Lovings not just for what they represented, but who they were. The simple moments of connection, support and companionship that provided the strength to change the world.

The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait is available on Amazon.

The problem with the “the Supreme Court undermined all these voters!” argument is that it ignores what the Supreme Court’s job is. The Supreme Court is supposed to determine if legislation is constitutional or not.

Did eliminating segregation through Brown v. Board undermine the voting wishes of a majority of Southern voters? Certainly.

Did ruling anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia remove a long-standing set of laws that governed what marriage was “supposed” to be? Of course.

When Lawrence v. Texas overturned Bowers v. Hardwick, were there still thousands of people who agreed with the Bowers decision and thought that legalizing sodomy “cast aside millennia of moral teaching”? Definitely. But that’s the point of the Supreme Court.

You think this decision undermines democracy? Not Citizens United v. FEC? Not Burwell v. Hobby Lobby? THIS is the one you take issue with? Because it lets people get married? What, exactly, does your idea of “democracy” entail?


When the Supreme Court recently handed down its decision that marriage equality was the law in all the states, I was slightly surprised. I thought it would be 5-4 the other way.

Anyone who knew the subject had an opinion. They ranged from ecstatic to seething.

This may sound corny to you, but I feel bad for those who are having difficulty with the decision.

Here is an example of what I mean. A woman named Dana Guffey, a county clerk in Arkansas, promised to resign from her post because she would rather quit than issue same-sex marriage licenses.

She is an adult and it is her decision. I respect her integrity. She is standing up for what she believes at risk of future unemployment. But I really wish she was able to logic around her disagreements and stay at her job.

I bet there are millions of Americans who feel just as put out as Ms. Guffey does. It is not for me to tell anyone about their beliefs. I feel bad for anyone who thinks that their faith has been diminished or disrespected by the Supreme Court’s decision.

Imagine if the Loving v. Virginia decision in 1967 had not gone in favor of striking down laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Think of how let down and inherently wronged you would feel — that’s where a lot of people are with Obergefell v. Hodges.

Justice Thomas voted against. I read his dissent in full. A fascinating and somewhat disturbing view into the man’s intellect and rationale, it reads like a 5,500-word steep uphill run, disagreeing not only with the majority but also with the burden of this decision being thrust upon the high court in the first place.

His logic, from what my layman’s mind can understand, is that the majority cannot prove that making marriage equality the law of the land does not infringe upon the powers the states have under the 10th Amendment, or does anything positive for anyone:

“To invoke the protection of the Due Process Clause at all — whether under a theory of ‘substantive’ or ‘procedural’ due process — a party must first identify a deprivation of ‘life, liberty, or property.’ The majority claims these state laws deprive petitioners of ‘liberty,’ but the concept of ‘liberty’ it conjures up bears no resemblance to any plausible meaning of that word as it is used in the Due Process Clause.”

It is interesting that in the middle of such rigidity, he uses the word “conjures,” which seems so emotional and speculative. I am sorry that he doesn’t see American liberty as including the freedom to marry the person you’re in love with. He seems underwhelmed, or perhaps intimidated, by the concept of liberty. He is deeply unhappy with his five fellow justices.

Justice Thomas calls out the majority for having a gross misunderstanding of the 14th Amendment. He writes, in part:

“[T]he majority clearly uses equal protection only to shore up its substantive due process analysis, an analysis both based on an imaginary constitutional protection and revisionist view of our history and tradition.”

He’s the scholar, but I think the first part of the 14th Amendment is exquisitely written, crystal clear and has no imaginary aspect to it. I always thought that the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments ended the marriage-equality debate smartly and made all established laws against it textbook definitions of unconstitutional.

Unsurprisingly, Justice Thomas sees no similarities between his pro–“traditional marriage” stance and the anti-miscegenation laws struck down by Loving v. Virginia: “Laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman do not share this sordid history.”

He and I do agree that bit of America’s past is indeed sordid. But I think they do share the exact same history.

What if Ms. Guffey had been a clerk when mixed-race marriages became legal and she resigned over that? Would I still respect her decision? I would pity her miserable ignorance, but I would have respected the fact that she came in through the front door with her bigotry and understood that acting on it while on the job had no place as a government employee.

I am hoping that, in time, Obergefell v. Hodges will be seen in the same way as Loving v. Virginia — inevitable and a sign of social evolution in America.

I bet two people of the same sex who want to get married don’t think they are going to have a “gay wedding.” By wanting to get married in the first place, they show their dedication both to each other and to tradition. Wanting to get married is a freakin’ billboard for normality and inclusion.

I wish the “You lost! Deal with it!” talk would stop. I can understand where it comes from but it doesn’t make anything better.

There were no losers, in my opinion. To those who disagree with same-sex marriage because it offends their faith, I would say your beliefs are still yours to have. The wisdom, peace and clarity that faith has allowed you to have are still intact. No word of any religious text has been changed or its power reduced. There is a lot of room in America; it allows all to move freely.

All the wedding photographs popping up on the Internet should be enough to convince anyone that this was a great decision. Take Jack Evans and George Harris, for example — together for 54 years, in Texas of all places, finally able to get hitched.

I am looking at them now. The skies have not darkened with locusts and tomorrow there will be traffic. I do believe we will be OK.