In 1958, Richard Loving, a white man, married Mildred Jeter, a black woman, in the District of Columbia. They then returned to their home in Virginia, where they were eventually convicted of violating the state's antimiscegenation statute banning interracial marriages.
Prior to the Loving case, the Court had been reluctant to tackle such laws. The issue was believed to be too controversial and would only inflame resistance to civil rights in the South, especially on the heels of the Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
In this case, however, the Court felt the time had come to address the issue. In a unanimous decision, the Court struck down Virginias law. It rejected the states claim that the law was constitutional because it applied equally to blacks and whites. The Court called race distinctions "odious to a free people" and said, 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.
388 U.S. 1 (1967)
APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA
Virginia's statutory scheme to prevent marriages between persons solely on the basis of racial classifications held to violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 388 U. S. 4-12.
206 Va. 924, 147 S.E.2d 78, reversed.