Loving, 50 Years Later

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Richard and Mildred Loving defied state law against interracial marriage in 1958. Mildred was African American and Richard was Caucasian. The couple was sentenced to a year in prison and restricted from living in Virginia, where interracial marriage was illegal as well as in 15 other Southern states. They moved to Washington D.C. but continued their legal fight against anti-miscegenation laws.

In a unanimous decision on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court determined that this prohibition was unconstitutional, overruling Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States. “Under our Constitution,” Chief Justice Earl Warren said in his decision, “the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

June 12 is now celebrated as “Loving Day” in honor the couple. According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of interracially married couples has increased from 310,000 in 1970 to 2,340,000 in 2008.  A 2010 Pew Research Center study found that 15% of newlyweds in the U.S. are intermarriage. Among all new marriages in 2010, 22% in the West were interracial or interethnic, compared with 14% in the South, 13% in the Northeast and 11% in the Midwest. Across racial or ethnic groups, 9.4% of whites, 17.1% of blacks, 25.7% of Hispanics and 27.7% of Asians had intermarried.

Since the landmark Loving case, one-in-six (17%) newlyweds were married to someone of a different race or ethnicity in 2015, according to Pew. That’s about a six-fold increase since 3% in 1967.

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