Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967) is a landmark civil rights decision of the United States Supreme Court, which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
The case was brought by Mildred Loving (née Jeter), a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state"s anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as "white" and people classified as "colored". The Supreme Court"s unanimous decision determined that this prohibition was unconstitutional, overruling Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.
The decision was followed by an increase in interracial marriages in the U.S., and is remembered annually on Loving Day, June 12. It has been the subject of several songs and three movies, including the 2016 film Loving. Beginning in 2013, it was cited as precedent in U.S. federal court decisions holding restrictions on same-sex marriage in the United States unconstitutional, including in the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges.
Anti-miscegenation laws in the United States had been in place in certain states since colonial days. Marriage to a slave was never legal. In the Reconstruction Era in 1865, the Black Codes across the seven states of the lower South made intermarriage illegal. The new Republican legislatures in six states repealed the restrictive laws. After the Democrats returned to power, the restriction was reimposed.
A major concern was how to draw the line between black and white in a society in which white men had many children with black slave women. On the one hand, a person"s reputation as black or white was usually decisive in practical matters. On the other hand, most laws used a "one drop of blood" rule, which meant that one black ancestor made a person black in the view of the law.