On this dayJun 12, 1967

Laws In Sixteen States Banning Interracial Marriage Finally Found Unconstitutional

Image |  Francis Miller, Time & Life Pictures

On June 12, 1967, the United States Supreme Court unanimously decided Loving v. Virginia, declaring state bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional and striking down a total of sixteen states with laws still active throughout the country.

Richard and Mildred Loving married in Washington, D.C. in 1958 -- but when they returned to their home in Caroline County, Virginia, they were arrested and charged with felony offenses just for being husband and wife. Under Virginia law, Richard was white, Mildred was black, and interracial marriage was illegal. Facing prison time, the Lovings pleaded guilty to the charges in 1959, received a suspended sentence and were ordered to leave the state for twenty-five years.

The Lovings decided to challenge the law in 1964, when they were arrested again while visiting family members in Virginia. First unsuccessful in state courts, they asked the United States Supreme Court to hear the case. In its decision finding in their favor, the Court acknowledged the laws were rooted in racism and denounced them as "measures designed to maintain white supremacy."

The Lovings returned to Virginia and lived as man and wife with their three children until Richard's death from a car accident in 1975. After the ruling, states that had never legally recognized an interracial marriage were forced to do so, and interracial couples no longer faced the threat of imprisonment. But opposition lingered. In 2000, Alabama became the last state to repeal its interracial marriage ban when residents voted to remove an anti-miscegenation provision from the state constitution -- more than thirty years after Loving made it unenforceable.

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