On June 12, 1967, fifty years ago this month, the US Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia. This decision held that states could not ban interracial marriage; the Court said that such laws violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment.
In June 1958 Mildred and Richard Loving married in DC because the Commonwealth of Virginia would not issue them a marriage license. They returned home to Virginia and a month later the police raided their home and arrested them, saying their DC marriage certificate was not valid. They were sentenced to prison, but given the option of having their sentence suspended if they left Virginia for 25 years. They moved to DC and ultimately Mrs. Loving wrote Attorney General Robert Kennedy for help; he referred them to the ACLU, which represented them as they appealed the case through the court system. The Lovings did not attend the arguments at the Supreme Court. Their attorney, however, conveyed Mr. Loving’s message: "Tell the Court that I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I cannot live with her in Virginia." The Supreme Court agreed with him and said so in its June 12, 1967 ruling: "Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival. … To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law."
The DC Superior Court's Marriage Bureau has a display of seven historic marriage licenses, including President Grover Cleveland, two presidents’ daughters, two former mayors of DC, and Richard and Mildred Loving. To see the collection of historic marriage licenses, visit the Marriage Bureau in its new location, room JM-690 of the Moultrie Courthouse (500 Indiana Avenue, NW, Washington, DC).
For more information about the Loving case, click here; to read the Supreme Court’s opinion in the case, click here
To see the collection of historic marriage licenses, visit the Marriage Bureau in its new location, room JM-690 of the Moultrie Courthouse (500 Indiana Avenue, NW, Washington, DC).