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February 12, 2012

A historic battle for interracial marriage

A historic battle for interracial marriage laws

PLATTSBURGH — Loving.

A better name could not have been scripted for the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down 16 states' statutes against interracial marriage.

Loving v. Virginia.

Richard Perry Loving, a white man, and Mildred Delores Jeter, a woman of black and Native-American descent, married in Washington, D.C., on June 2, 1958. After returning to their home in Caroline County, Va., they were arrested, jailed and convicted for violating Virginia's Racial Integrity Act, which prohibited interracial marriage between whites and non-whites.

Section 20-54 of the Virginia Code defined "white," in part:

"For the purpose of this chapter, the term 'white person' shall apply only to such person as has no trace whatever of any blood other than Caucasian; but persons who have one-sixteenth or less of the blood of the American Indian and have no other non-Caucasic blood shall be deemed to be white persons."

The same code defined colored persons and Indians as "every person in whom there is ascertainable any Negro blood shall be deemed and taken to be a colored person, and every person not a colored person having one fourth or more of American Indian blood shall be deemed an American Indian; except that members of Indian tribes existing in this Commonwealth having one fourth or more of Indian blood and less than one sixteenth of Negro blood shall be deemed tribal Indians."

'I LOVE MY WIFE'

Blood quantum didn't matter to the Lovings. They simply wanted to live married in Virginia and wanted their children legitimized.

Mrs. Loving was a product of Central Point, a multiracial community. There were others like them who were married but hid it or were in common-law relationships without the advantages of marriage.

Miscegenation statutes similar to Virginia's existed in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Maryland repealed its prohibitions against interracial marriage after the Loving suit was filed.

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