Focal Case Summary Loving v. Virginia (1967)

Case Summary

In 1958, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, both residents of the State of Virginia, got married lawfully in the District of Columbia. Jeter was Black and Loving was White. Shortly after, the couple was indicted for violating a Virginia state ban on interracial marriage. They pleaded guilty in 1959 and were sentenced to 1 year in jail. The judge who tried the case offered to suspend their jail sentence for 25 years if they leave Virginia for 25 years.

The Lovings moved to DC and in 1963 filed a motion to vacate the judgment on the grounds that the law they were accused of breaking violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights. In 1964, the petitioned the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to institute a class action.

The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia upheld the Lovings’ conviction, arguing that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment had not been violated, since representatives of both races were punished equally.

In 1967, in a unanimous decision penned by Chief Justice Warren, the US Supreme Court ruled that state bans on interracial marriages were unconstitutional and discriminatory.


The main issue in this case was whether state bans on interracial marriages violate the Fourtheenth Amendment. Specifically, the part of the Amendment referred to as the Equal Protection Clause, which states:

…nor shall any State … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In Brown v Board of Ed (1954) the US Supreme Court ruled that segregation in schools was illegal. Ten years later, SCOTUS struck down yet another instance of segregation in Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v United States (1964). As the Lovings’ case was moving through the courts, desegregation was taking place throughout the US. The legal team representing the Lovings argued that segregation was at the heart of all miscegenation laws, such as those in Virginia.

In July 2022 a bill was introduced in the US Congress dubbed “Loving v. Virginia Codification Act of 2022” (H.R.8396). It seeks to make it illegal for any state to pass or enforce laws that prevent people of different races from marrying.


H.R.8396 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Loving v. Virginia Codification Act of 2022. (2022, July 15).

Kratz, J. (2021, February 11). The fight for the right to marry: The loving v. Virginia case. Pieces of History.


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