American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

45th Anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, a Case for Marriage Equality

They dared to love each other when the law said it was illegal.

In 1958, Mildred Jeter, a woman of African-American and Native-American decent, married Richard Loving, a white man. They were thrown in prison.

Believing that the United States Constitution guaranteed them the fundamental freedom to marry, they filed a lawsuit. That watershed case, Loving v. Virginia, was decided by the Supreme Court 45 years ago today.  The unanimous Court said:

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. … Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

At the time, 20% of Americans believed it was okay to marry someone from a different race. Far different from the majority of Americans who support the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples today.

Last year AFER attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies recorded a short video to mark the case’s importance on AFER’s federal challenge to Prop. 8 (above).

The Loving’s quest for equality was also told in the moving documentary The Loving Story, which premiered on HBO this past Valentine’s Day.