Richard and Mildred Loving fought for 10 years to validate their right to marry each other and live in their home state of Virginia.
June 2, 1958: Richard Perry Loving, a white construction worker, marries Mildred Jeter, who is of mixed race but identifies primarily as Native American. Because the two are of different races, they can’t legally marry in Virginia so they go to Washington D.C. to exchange vows.
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July 11, 1958: The Caroline County prosecutor obtains arrest warrants for the couple, who have returned to Central Point, Va., to live. A few nights later the county sheriff breaks down the door and enters the Lovings’ bedroom. He arrests the couple and jails them briefly.
October 1958: The Lovings are indicted on felony charges of violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law.
Jan. 6, 1959: While standing trial, the Lovings decide to plead guilty as part of a deal in which the court sentences them to a year in jail but “suspend(s) said sentence … upon the provision that both accused leave … the state of Virginia at once and not return together … for a period of 25 years.”
January 1959: Richard and Mildred Loving move to Washington and live with Mildred’s cousin and his wife. The Lovings have three children.
June 1963: Mildred Loving writes to Attorney General Robert Kennedy asking that he help the family return legally to Virginia. Kennedy refers the matter to the D.C. branch of the ACLU.
Nov. 4, 1963: The Lovings’ ACLU lawyers ask the trial court to vacate the Lovings’ conviction. The judge refuses, writing: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
March 7, 1966: The Virginia Supreme Court upholds the state’s anti-miscegenation law but rules that the trial court should not have forced the couple to leave the state.
April 10, 1967: The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Loving case. The national ACLU, the NAACP, the Japanese-American Citizens League, U.S. Catholic bishops and others had filed amicus briefs in support of the Lovings.
June 12, 1967: In a unanimous ruling, the court finds that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute is unconstiutional. Chief Justice Earl Warren writes the court’s opinion: “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the state. These convictions must be reversed.”
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