Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in Va. Code Ann. §§ 20-58, 20-59, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is to deprive all the state's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under the United States Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the state.
A married couple was charged for violating a Virginia statute prohibiting interracial marriages. They were sentenced to one year in jail. They challenged the statute’s constitutionality but both the trial court and Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals affirmed its constitutionality.
Is a statute prohibiting interracial marriages a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment?
A state law making the criminality of an act depend upon the race of the actor is invalid. It is the very purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment to uphold one’s free will to marry, as well as eliminate racial discrimination and the Virginia statute clearly violated these principles.