Episode 3: Loving v. Virginia

In 1958, shortly after their wedding, Mildred and Richard Loving were arrested in their Virginia home by local police for the crime of being married. Richard was white. Mildred was black and Native American. 

Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924, like laws in fifteen other states at the time, prohibited interracial marriages among white and black people. Richard and Mildred were convicted for violating this law and were banished from Virginia. After several years of exile in Washington, DC, they decided to challenge their convictions with the help of two young attorneys with the ACLU.

They would lose every step of the way. In 1966, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled against them, upholding the Virginia marriage ban as consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment's due process and equal protection clauses. So the Lovings turned to the last court they could, the U.S. Supreme Court.

There, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, confronted the last major vestige of the Jim Crow era: anti-miscegenation laws. Though many states had voluntarily abandoned them, the Southern states clung on, and only one state court had ever ruled that a marriage ban was unconstitutional.  

Question: Did Virginia's anti-miscegenation law violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Answer: Yes.


  • Earl Warren (majority opinion)
  • Hugo Black
  • William Douglas
  • Tom Clark
  • John Marshall Harlan II
  • William Brennan
  • Potter Stewart
  • Byron White
  • Abe Fortas