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Historical Attempt to Criminalize Interracial Marriages

The federal laws of United States of America do not prohibit interracial marriages. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of life and property as well as equal protection of laws to the citizens. The Amendment reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

However, a few States in the past have enacted (Anti-Miscegenation) statutes prohibiting interracial marriages between White Americans and Black Americans. One such State that prohibited interracial marriages was the State of Virginia A landmark case decided in the State of Virginia, then subsequently resolved by the United States Supreme Court on appeal is Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967).

In this case a Black woman and White man were married in the District of Columbia, then returned to Virginia and declared their marriage. But, Virginia had enacted a statute prohibiting interracial marriages between Whites and Blacks. The Loving couple were criminally prosecuted for having an interracial marriage, convicted of a felony and sentenced to one year in jail. The trial court suspended the sentence but, banned the Loving’s from entering Virginia for a period of twenty-five years.

It is interesting to note the tenor and tone of the Court’s ruling. The trial judge opined that:

“Almighty God created the races White, Black, Yellow, Malay and Red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” Wow…

Further, under Virginia code the punishment for interracial marriage read: “If any White person intermarry with a Colored Person, or any Colored Person intermarry with a White person, he shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years.”

Not surprisingly, in many cases Blacks were severely punished for interracial marriages and less punishment was given to Whites. Even under this statute, Whites fared much better than Blacks. The application of the Virginia code is historically consistent in terms of Blacks natural rights being given short shrift since Dred Scott v. Sandford 60 U.S. 393 (1857).

The matter of Loving couple was later appealed to the United States Supreme Court and the court held that prevention or prohibition of interracial marriages violates the Fourteenth Amendment. The court further observed that freedom to marry is an important personal right of an individual. It is one of the basic civil rights. Therefore, States cannot curtail such right by enacting laws violating the Fourteenth Amendment.

If you believe that, your civil rights, due process rights or equal protection rights are violated contact The Sanders Firm, P.C. in New York. We will review your claim thoroughly, providing you with an outline of possible actions you may wish to take. We are ready to be your voice for justice.