Interracial “Loving” Marks its 50th Anniversary

A half century after the famous “Loving” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, interracial marriage has become commonplace in the United States. However, some of those involved in such relationships still face resistance, proving that 50 years may not be sufficient time to overcome entrenched feelings.

At the center of what was then a controversial subject were Richard and Mildred Loving, who were legally married in the District of Columbia in 1958. The couple was prosecuted after returning to Virginia, where interracial marriage was not allowed. Eventually, the issue reached the Supreme Court, which issued its historic decision on June 12, 1967. The unanimous ruling declared as unconstitutional Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, which became law in 1924 and prohibited anyone determined to be “white” from marrying a “colored” person. The underlying purpose of the law was, of course, to protect the “purity” of the dominant race. Based on the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, often referred to as the “equal protection” clause, the 1967 ruling also took down similar laws then in effect in 15 other states.

American attitudes concerning interracial marriage have shifted dramatically in the past 50 years have even changed significantly in only half that period of time. In 1990, some 60 percent of the white population still opposed interracial marriage. In the latest poll, opposition from the same demographic group was only 14 percent. Opposition is higher in certain groups, however, such as those who have not received a formal education beyond high school.

Though legal in many areas of the country, interracial marriage was rare before the 1967 ruling. Based on the latest data, approximately one in six American marriages involve individuals of a different race or ethnic group. Though more common today, the practice is not universally accepted. One interracial couple that today lives in Virginia has reported experiencing criticism from others who are still uncomfortable this type of marriage arrangement. Fortunately, the couple and their children are legally protected, thanks to the court ruling of 50 years ago.