This Day in History: Richard and Mildred Loving Plead Guilty to the Crime of Interracial Marriage

Photograph of Mildred Loving and Richard Loving dated June 12, 1967

By the Equal Justice Initiative

After marrying in Washington, D.C., in 1958, Richard and Mildred Loving returned to their native Caroline County, Virginia, to build a home and start a family. Their union was a criminal act in Virginia because Richard was white, Mildred was black, and the state’s Racial Integrity Act, passed in 1924, criminalized interracial marriage.

On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pleaded guilty to both charges. After their conviction and release, the Lovings fought the law that had branded their love a crime and, on June 12, 1967, won a United States Supreme Court decision that would change the nation.

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Room4Debate: Do barriers to interracial marriage still exist?

 By Kevin Noble Maillard of thegrio.com

Do barriers to interracial marriage still exist? Despite recent media reports that we are living in a “post-racial world” as the face of the American family changes, the numbers do not lie when showing that there is still resistance to black/white relationships.

Formally, all prohibitions on black/white interracial marriage have been removed. The Supreme Court ruled that anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional in the 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia. This case made it legal for people to marry the person of their own choosing, regardless of race. No state government can block an interracial marriage after the ruling, the case determined.

Hearts did not change overnight, however. Some states did not change their laws after the ruling, even though they could not have been enforced. South Carolina and Alabama did not officially amend their laws until 1998 and 2000, respectively, and not without resistance. In 2009, Keith Bardwell, a Justice of the Peace in Louisiana, refused to perform the marriage of a black man and white woman. And just last year, a church in Kentucky banned interracial couples from membership.

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Watch a trailer for the HBO movie, The Loving Story.