Loving v. Virginia Case Brief

Summary of Loving v. Virginia (1967)

Relevant Facts: PL’s are an interracial couple who were prosecuted on the basis of a VA statute which prohibited such marriages, punishable by fine and or jail time. State Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s sentence of one year suspended with suspension on the premise the couple never returned to VA. This Court reverses.

Issue: Under constitutional law, is a state statute that prosecutes parties who are interracially married violate the Equal Protection Clause when the statute is argued to be equally discriminatory?

Holding: No. The framers of the Constitution did not intend for a statute which discriminates, even if equally, against race; such a statute is considered a violation of the EPC.

Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: The Court said the law involved in the case-at-bar is basically a furthering of white supremacy. The State says the Framers’ intent in such a law was if there is a discriminatory effect, that it apply equally to parties. They continue to add that if EPC does not outlaw mixed marriage statutes b/c of their reliance on racial classification, the question of constitutionality would thus become whether there was any rational basis for a State to treat interracial marriages differently from other marriages..

The Court rejects these arguments. When a statute is not race-based, the Court will ask if there is a rational basis for the statute; it may defer to the states, but if there is no rational basis it is rendered void. The State contends the Framers of the Constitution or the Framers of the 14th Amendment didn’t intend to make mixed marriage statutes unconstitutional. But the Court says the clear intent of the 14th was to eliminate all official state sources of violative racial discrimination in the States (originalist argument).

VA’s statute is discriminatory on its face, as it discriminates against generally accepted conduct if engaged in by members of different races. After applying strict scrutiny to the statute, the Court tried to figure out if they were necessary to the carrying out of a state objective, independent of the racial discrimination which it was object of the 14th Amendment to eliminate.

However, there is no independent issue aside from racial discrimination which justifies this classification. The fact that the statute involves white interracial marriages is proof of the supremacist intent of the States framers. The Court consistently denied the constitutionality of such statutes. Bottom line is that the statutes also deprive the Lovings of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. The freedom to marry has long been recognized as an essential right that the Court will enforce.

Rule: The clear and central purpose of the 14th Amendment was to eliminate all official state sources of invidious racial discrimination in the States.

The EPC demands that racial classifications, especially suspect in criminal statutes, be subjected to the “most rigid scrutiny.” and, if they are to be upheld, they must be shown to be necessary to the accomplishment of some permissible state objective, independent of the racial discrimination which it was the object of the 14th Amendment to eliminate.

Important Dicta: N/A.



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