Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down all state laws banning interracial marriage as violations of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The decision was followed by an increase in interracial marriages in the U.S. and is remembered annually on Loving Day. It has been the subject of several songs and three movies, including the 2016 film Loving. Beginning in 2013, it was cited as precedent in U.S. federal court decisions holding restrictions on same-sex marriage in the United States unconstitutional, including in the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges.
The case was brought by Mildred Loving (née Jeter), a woman of color, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which criminalized marriage between people classified as "white" and people classified as "colored". The Lovings appealed their conviction to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which upheld it. They then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear their case.
On June 12, 1967, the Court issued a unanimous decision in the Lovings' favor and overturned their convictions. The Court struck down Virginia's anti-miscegenation law, thereby overruling the 1883 case Pace v. Alabama and ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States. Virginia had argued that its law was not a violation of the Equal Protection Clause because the punishment was the same regardless of the offender's race, and thus it "equally burdened" both whites and non-whites. The Court found that the law nonetheless violated the Equal Protection Clause because it was based solely on "distinctions drawn according to race" and outlawed conduct—namely, getting married—that was otherwise generally accepted and which citizens were free to do. Additionally, the Court ruled that the freedom to marry was a constitutionally protected fundamental liberty, and therefore the government's deprivation of it on an arbitrary basis such as race was violation of the Due Process Clause.