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Loving v Virginia [1967]

Loving v Virginia [1967] 388 US 1 is a landmark Supreme Court case that was decided in 1967. This case played a pivotal role in ending racial segregation in the United States and is particularly significant for its impact on interracial marriage.


The case centred on Mildred Loving, a Black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who were residents of Virginia. The Lovings had married in Washington, D.C. in 1958, where interracial marriage was legal. However, when they returned to their home state of Virginia, their marriage was considered illegal under the state's anti-miscegenation laws, which prohibited marriages between people of different races.


The Lovings were arrested and convicted for violating Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to one year in jail, with the sentence suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return together for 25 years.


The central issue of the case was whether Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws violated the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.


In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Lovings, declaring Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. The Court held that these laws violated both the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


Chief Justice Earl Warren, who authored the Court's opinion, emphasised that marriage is a fundamental civil right and that the Virginia law was based on racial discrimination. He wrote, "The freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State." The decision effectively struck down anti-miscegenation laws in 16 states where such laws were still in effect.


The Supreme Court's decision was a landmark victory for civil rights and marked a significant step toward ending racial discrimination in the United States. It recognised the right of individuals to marry whomever they choose, regardless of their race, and set an important legal precedent for future civil rights cases.

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