Supreme Court Case

The oral arguments for the Loving v. Virginia case took place on April 10,1967. Surprisingly, the Loving’s did not come to the hearing. This is mostly likely due to the fact that the Loving’s were never trying to be civil right hero’s and are uncomfortable with publicity. Phil Hirschkop and Bernie Cohen’s family were at the hearing, along with William Marutani and Donald Kramer who helped write the amicus briefs. The court oral arguments took more than two hours and involved most of the justices in the arguments.1 Assistant Attorney General Robert Mcllwaine represented the State of Virginia in the court case with the job of arguing miscegenation laws in the state.2 Hirschkop began the oral arguments that the miscegenation law violated the equal protection clause in the 14th amendment and asked the Court to ponder the question of if a state can ban marriage on the properties of race. These laws dated back to 1600’s miscegenation statues that were installed due to slavery. In addition, the basis for these laws were inconsistent as Virginia would continuously change their mind on what percentage of black blood is needed to be classified as a black person. Hirschkop touched on a 1924 law that allowed all races to marry except for the white race. Hirschkop sat down once concluding with a heartfelt plea on how miscegenation laws are just slavery laws that rob a black person of dignity. Bernie Cohen stepped up to say his due process argument. Cohen barely got any words in for his argument, when a justice interrupted to comment if the state should prohibit marriage between siblings. Cohen responded that the states have the right to regulate citizens marriage in some capacities, but not on the basis of race. In addition, Bernie Cohen believed that if the Court were strike down miscegenation laws on the basis of the equal protection clause being violated, states may just respond with adding specific laws that ban marriages between Mongolians from marrying non white Mongolians and etc.3 Cohen also included a quote from Richard Loving, “Mr. Cohen, tell the Court that I love my wife, and it is just so unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”4 Cohen also supplemented to Hirschkop’s 14th amendment argument. With additional time left, William Marutani was allowed to quickly add to the oral arguments. Marutani said that the Virginia law regarding race in marriage was to broad and that there was no such thing as a authentic race. No single person is capable of claiming only Caucasian blood. Virginia laws were about the idea of the superiority of the white race.5

Robert Mcllwaine began his arguments once Marutani sat down. The basis of Mcllwaine’s argument were 19th century debates and old racist rhetoric. He attacked the 14th amendment argument by Cohen and Hirschkop. Mcllwaine believed the 14th amendment was not supposed to apply to anti miscegenation laws. Marriage was up to the states to decide, as it is a state matter and the Virginia law was fair as it equally prohibited black and white citizens from intermarrying. Mcllwaine was forced to admit that the original marriage law was made because of the original creators belief in white purity. He added that the law has a different meaning in 1967, an argument that the Court did not agree with. Mcllwaine tried to end his arguments on the basis that in 1956, a huge amount of states used to have anti miscegenation laws.. This statement was a failure as the justices asked if these were the same states to have school segregation laws which forced Mcllwaine to say that those same states had gotten rid of anti miscegenation laws. Mcllwaine concluded that interracial marriage laws were based on idea of high divorce rates in interracial unions and that this hurt the children born in these marriages.6

After Robert Mcllwaine failed to impress the Court with his weak arguments and ideas, Bernie Cohen got up to reply. Cohen was able to successful attack Mcllwaine’s argument’s as Mcllwaine contradicted himself multiple times. Cohen added a humane aspect of the miscegenation laws effecting the Loving’s and their children deeply. He begged the Court to factor their decision on the Loving v. Virginia case on the ideas of the 14th amendment due process and equal protection clauses.7

The United States Supreme Court delivered their ruling on the Loving V. Virginia case on June 12, 1967. Justice Earl Warren failed to agree with Virginia’s argument that the intermarriage laws were equal in the idea of the law both having consequences on white and black citizens marriage. This was not true as Warren wrote that there was no laws prohibiting marriage of people from other races. Warren concluded that this violated citizen’s right to marriage and the right to choose who they want to marry. The US Supreme Court sided with the Loving’s unanimously.8

Bernie Cohen and Philip Hirshkop held a news conference in Alexandria and invited the Loving’s couple. The Loving’s did meet Cohen and Hirshkop at the news conference, but were initially hesitant as it was so public and the Loving’s did not like being in the limelight. Mildred Loving said at the press conference that she knew the Loving’s would win the case, but Richard Loving was not certain the court would rule in the Loving’s favor. He admitted that he would have just filed another lawsuit again in five years. Richard Loving planned to build a home for the the couple and their children in Central Point. Everything was finally over and the Loving’s were gleeful. They never read the court decision that granted them the ability to marry legally and return to their hometown.9

  1. Phyl Newbeck, Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving ( Illinois: Southern Illinois University, 2008), 173-174 ↩︎
  2. Peter Wallenstein, Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry: Loving V. Virginia( Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2014), 128-129 ↩︎
  3. Newbeck, Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers, 174-176 ↩︎
  4. Wallenstein, Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry, 129 ↩︎
  5. Newbeck, Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers, 177-178 ↩︎
  6. Newbeck, Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers, 177-183 ↩︎
  7. Newbeck, Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers, 183-185 ↩︎
  8. Justia US Supreme Court Center. “Loving v. Virginia:: 388 U.S. 1.” 1967. ↩︎
  9. Newbeck, Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers, 188-189 ↩︎