At the age of 18, Mildred became pregnant, and in June 1958 the couple traveled to Washington, D.C. to marry, thereby evading Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which made interracial marriage a crime. They returned to the small town of Central Point, Virginia. Based on an anonymous tip, local police raided their home at night, hoping to find them having sex, which was also a crime according to Virginia law. When the officers found the Lovings sleeping in their bed, Mildred pointed out their marriage certificate on the bedroom wall. That certificate became the evidence for the criminal charge of “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth” that was brought against them.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Lovings’ convictions in a unanimous decision (dated June 12, 1967), dismissing the Commonwealth of Virginia’s argument that a law forbidding both white and black persons from marrying persons of another race—and providing identical penalties to white and black violators—could not be construed as racially discriminatory. The court ruled that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Loving v. Virginia is discussed in the context of the public debate about same-sex marriage in the United States. Since 2014, five U.S. Courts of Appeals have considered the constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage. In doing so they have interpreted or used the Loving ruling in a few different ways. But the REAL issue here is being able to marry the one you love…no matter who it is.
In June 2007, on the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving, Mildred Loving issued a statement that said
I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry… I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.