Marriage Cases

By Emmi Rivkin

Cases Having to do with the 14th Amendment

Loving v. Virginia 1967

Historical Context

At the height of banning inter-racial marriage, almost thirty states had laws banning inter-racial marriage. During the time of Loving v. Virginia, though, only sixteen states criminalized inter-racial marriage. This ban not only criminalized whites marrying blacks, according to, but also refused whites the ability to marry Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos and Native Americans. Another way to hinder inter-racial marriage was the Jim Crow laws, which were used to limit interactions between whites and blacks, according to These laws made marriage between a white and someone of a different race punishable by law. These laws were used from the 1880s to the 1960s, going out of use around the time of Loving v. Virginia. An earlier barrier was slavery. In 1860, according to, 26% of families in Virginia owned slaves. While those slaveowners were not alive in 1967, their ideals lived on in their families. Therefore, blacks were treated like expendable machines, not fit to marry a "superior" white person. Soon after, the Civil War occurred. During that time, anti-miscegenation laws we used at places such as railroads, parks and school. These regulations made inter-racial couples and their children feel ostracized. As time went on, people began to get accustomed to the way things were, and inter-racial marriage was disapproved of. According to, only 4% of people in 1958 approved of whites marrying people of other races. Judges only led these feelings on, as they defended anti-miscegenation laws by saying that inter-racial marriage was unnatural. Not only that, but judges also said that inter-racial marriage was against God's will and that marriage was a decision belonging to the states, according to Judges also said that, because both people in a relationship that broke the anti-miscegenation laws were punished, these laws obeyed the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause; equal punishment meant equal protection. In state courts in the 1870s, the US Supreme Court in 1883 and throughout the next 85 years, anti-miscegenation laws were endorsed and defended. Pace v. Alabama, a Supreme Court case in 1883, decided that, as long as the punishment was equal for all races, a punishment was constitutional. According to, Tony Pace, a black man, and Mary Cox, a white woman, were caught living together. They were sentenced to two years in prison each, which was an equal punishment. When the two appealed to the Supreme Court, it agreed with the lower court. This earlier case shows that times would change, as Loving v. Virginia was decided in a very different direction.
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Facts of the Case

In 1958, Mildred Jeter, an eighteen-year-old black woman, and Richard Loving, a twenty four-year- old white man, got married in Washington, DC. They returned to their home state of Virginia, but neighbors soon got wind of their marriage. According to, the sheriff of Caroline County and his deputies walked through the door to arrest the couple in the middle of the night after the two had lived together for about one month. In court, they were charged with breaking the anti-miscegenation law, and they each received one year in jail; the judge decided that the couple would not receive their punishment if they left Virginia and did not return for twenty five years. The Lovings returned to Washington, DC, where they were married, and raised three children. After Mildred got a suggestion from a cousin to write a letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, she wrote to him about if the civil rights bill that was being debated at the time could have the power to allow her and her husband to move back to their family and friends. Kennedy sent the letter to the American Civil Liberties Union, which appointed Bernard Cohen as the attorney. Phil Hirschkop, also of the ACLU, joined the party as well, and together convinced the US Supreme Court to take the Lovings' case. Even though the Supreme Court had been avoiding inter-racial marriage cases, the justices consented and unanimously voted in favor of the Lovings.
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The Question and Amendment Involved

When Virginia made inter-racial marriage illegal, were they denying couples their 14th Amendment rights?

This case has to do with the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The Ruling and Impact

The court ruled nine to zero in favor of the Lovings. According to, Chief Justice Earl Warren stated that bans on inter-racial marriage violated both the Equal Protection Clause in the 14 Amendment and the constitutional right to due process. Chief Justice Warren said that marriage was one of "the basic civil rights." This shows that the justices in the US Supreme Court in 1967 were conscious of the repercussions of deciding in favor of Virginia, which could include rioting and protest, and knew that times would change in America. Skin color might not be a major factor in dictating one's marriage opportunities in the future, and the justices knew this. They also knew that citizens might lose faith in the government if it made another decision similar to the one in the Dred Scott case.

The impact was huge on the citizens. As whites and non-whites now had the ability to freely marry, neighbors were forced to accept that this was the way life was going to be from that point on. This recognition of the consequences was one of the biggest impacts, as it shows the nation becoming more accepting. Since the time of the case, the percentage of people that approve of inter-racial marriage has increased drastically. Between 1968 and 2007, 57% more of the population has grown to recognize inter-racial marriage and even agree with it. However, the older generations have been shown to have a tendency to stick with the old ways, and adults olde than fifty have an extra 18% of their population that disapproves of inter-racial marriage in comparison to adults ages 18-49. This also shows impact, because 67% of adults over 50 agree with inter-racial marriage, proving that an old dog can be taught new tricks. Overall, the impact on the opinions of citizens has been huge since Loving v. Virginia. Another impact was on the rights of citizens. Now, a white has the ability to freely marry a non-white. According to, one in fifteen marriages is inter-racial, something unheard of before Loving v. Virginia. This shows that citizens gained more rights and freedoms after the case. Loving v. Virginia also caused the government to change. Now, it could no longer punish couples for making a choice about who they married. Judges couldn't punish inter-racial couples, even if doing so would obey their ideals. The government was unable to do the same, but, as can be seen today, the government doesn't have too much of a problem with inter-racial couples. To summarize, Loving v. Virginia has had enormous impact on the way the nation looks at rights and marriage.

Obergefell v. Hodges 2015

Historical Context

The most recent legalization of same-sex marriage for a country was Ireland. In May 2015, Ireland legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote. Even though it is a Catholic nation that still tends to not allow abortion, it made homosexuality no longer criminal in 1993. This movement started with the people, as the population was the body that had the power to change the laws. After a large vote, with more than sixty percent of the population voting in the election, according to, the Yes campaign won. Twice as many people voted for the Yes side than the No side, so Ireland will join the list of nineteen countries that have legalized same-sex marriage as soon as the referendum is approved. Unfortunately, this list does not include the United States, but it soon could. The world may not legalize homosexual marriage as a whole yet, as the majority of the opposition is made up of religious leaders. Religion will have to accept homosexuality for the world to. Religions than disapprove of same-sex marriage include Orthodox Judaism, Mormonism, Catholicism and the National Association of Evangelicals, according to Religions such as the Islamic religion condemn homosexuality and even punish same-sex couples. Other religions or branches of religions have created ceremonies similar to traditional marriage, which is a step in the right direction. In America, same-sex marriage has been a debated topic for decades. In 1970, Richard John Baker and James Michael McConnell applied for a marriage license, but they were denied on the grounds that they were both men. When the couple went to court for their marriage license, they lost, with the court agreeing with the Hennepin County District Court clerk, Gerald Nelson, according to When the couple appealed to the US Supreme Court, they still lost. This case created a precedent for others cases, which had the ability to decrease the amount of success any other cases for same-sex marriage. Three years later, Maryland became the first state to ban same-sex marriage. The government did this by including in its Family Law Code a line stating, "Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this State." By doing this, Maryland created an unfortunate amount of prejudice against same-sex couples. Even though between 1970 and 1993 there was a huge increase in recognition for same-sex marriage, in 1995, Mike Leavitt signed a bill that denied couples that had gotten married in another state the ability to have their marriage recognized by the state government. This bill was the first state Defense of Marriage statute. Also, in 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act into a law. This bill act outlined marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." It also says that a spouse has to be of the opposite sex.

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Facts of the Case

In Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee, homosexual couples sued for their right to marry or for their marriage to be recognized by the government. Jim Obergefell of Ohio wanted to marry John Arthur, but Ohio did not allow same-sex marriage. The couple had been together for twenty years, according to, but they put off their marriage, saying that they wanted to get married in their home state. When Arthur was diagnosed with ALS, the two of them flew to Maryland, a state where same-sex marriage was legal and getting a license was easy. Because of Arthur's condition, even exiting the plane was not an option. His aunt, Paulette Roberts, married them on July 11th, 2013. After a short legal battle against Ohio, it was decided that John Arthur would be labeled as "married" on his death certificate. Three months after getting married, Arthur died, and he was listed as married to Jim Obergefell on his death certificate. However, Ohio appealed and won a year later. Obergefell appealed to the US Supreme Court. If it does not overturn the ruling made in favor of Ohio, Arthur will be listed as single.
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The Questions and Amendment Involved

According to, the questions in front of the court are, "(1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? (2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex that was legally licensed and performed in another state?"

This case has to do with the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.


I believe that the Supreme Court should decide in favor of Obergefell. Marriage is marriage, no matter what sex the people involved are. The 14th Amendment includes an Equal Protection Clause, and that means equal protection for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. To quote the Constitution, "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." This means that none of the states are able to infringe upon the rights of homosexual citizens in America. The states are also unable to deny citizens liberty. This applies to same-sex marriage, because couples are being denied the liberty to marry who they want to. As we are now living in the 21st century, differences should be embraced, not taunted. We should all be treated equally by others around us and by the government, just like the 14th Amendment says.

Unfortunately, I am not too certain about whether or not the Supreme Court will decide in favor of same-sex marriage. According to a survey done by Quinnipiac University, 43% of people over fifty five oppose same-sex marriage. Also, according to a poll done by the New York Times and CBS News, 61% of Republicans think that same-sex marriage should not be legal. The justices in the US Supreme Court are older, and five out of the nine are Republican. This might cause the vote to swing in the favor of those against same-sex marriage and homosexuality. On the flip side, the justices do have to think about what is best for the nation and what is constitutional. These factors might influence the justices to vote in favor of supporting same-sex marriage. Overall, the justices will decide on whatever they think is best for the nation.

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The Supreme Court made the decision in Loving v. Virginia mostly against what was viewed as correct by the population. Less than 29% of the nation's population agreed with inter-racial marriage, so the ruling probably incited some outcry from the majority of the population that disagreed with inter-racial marriage. Another interesting part of the decision is that the case originated in Virginia, a southern state that, at one point, had slaves. This mights have influenced the Supreme Court into thinking the opposite, considering that the original state had made racism a thing of every day life. However, the only reason that the case ever got to the Supreme Court is that it did originate in Virginia. The Virginian courts would be more inclined to decide in favor of Virginia, because the judges would mostly be white opposers of inter-racial marriage. Without those judges, the case never would have reached to US Supreme Court. Fast forward to the 21st century, and something different is happening. The US is receiving pressure from other countries to decide in favor of Obergefell and legalize same-sex marriage. 56% of adults in America agree with same-sex marriage, which is a much high percentage than agreed with inter-racial marriage in 1967. Therefore, the Supreme Court is receiving pressure from the population as well to legalize same-sex marriage. This may cause the justices to support same-sex marriage and expand the definition of marriage and its boundaries.


Works Cited

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