Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act made it a criminal offense to marry outside of one’s race. Two Virginia residents, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter, were married in Washington, D.C., and returned to their home state. Richard was white; Mildred was black. They were convicted under the Racial Integrity Act and sentenced to one year in prison. They challenged the law under the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
The U.S. Supreme Court held that the law violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. It refused to defer to the Legislature’s judgment about the desirability of racial discrimination, affirming that the 14th Amendment protects the right to marry as “one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness.” It denied that the state had articulated any “legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination” for restricting that right.