Reactions to Loving v. Virginia in 1967?

We’ve all seen the range of reactions - everything from ecstatic joy to predictions of the end of civilization - by pundits, commentators, politicians, etc. to yesterday’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the US.

Many people have made the inevitable comparison to the Court’s 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia which invalidated all bans on interracial marriage. I hadn’t yet been born, so I have no memory of the reaction to the decision. I haven’t had much success searching for editorials, articles, and other contemporary comments on the ruling.

Can the scholars, historians, and people older than me help me out? What was the reaction to the Loving v. Virginia decision when it was announced? Was the case followed as closely by the general public as Obergefell? Was the decision greeted with the same mix of unbridled enthusiasm and dire predictions?

Someone can speak to the actual events, but in 1967, we did not have this continual 24/7/365 news cycle obsession industry. I was 10 and am surprised it was decided that late. Guess I forgot.

I would live to know the answer to this as well. That this law would be aggressively enforced in 1967 is fascinating.

Good point. Did you forget, or did the media just not give the decision a lot of attention?

In the course of reading about the case, I was surprised to learn how long it took for a majority of Americans to agree that interracial marriage was OK. That’s one of the big differences, socially, between *Loving *and Obergefell. By the time *Obergefell *was decided, polls showed that a solid majority of Americans felt that same-sex marriage was OK. When *Loving *was decided, a solid majority of Americans did *not *believe that interracial marriage was OK. It took several decades for that to change.

According to XKCD popular approval of interracial marriage was below 50% as late as 1995, so it was much less popular at the time of Loving. The sense of the Loving decision must have been more like “not very many people approve of this, but we can’t think of a good reason to forbid it”, as opposed to gay marriage’s “more than half the country approves of this and the laws are lagging behind the people”.

One thing I don’t see in the history books is these “scorched earth” laws and state constitutional amendments against gay marriage that went though in the last decade having any counterpart in the time before Loving. Probably because interracial marriage was so unpopular at the time no one felt they needed such things.

Here’s a snippet of an Op-ed

At one time or another in American history, interracial marriages were illegal in every state (except latecomers Alaska and Hawaii.) When Loving was decided it was still illegal in 14 states.

However, Loving v. Virginia was a 9-0 decision by the Court, so its opponents didn’t even have a Scalia-like dissent to rally behind.


I was in a small town (with pretensions of being sophisticated) in Indiana and graduated their High School in 1967.
My father was a hard-core racist, and proud of it. It was also a moron and proud of that, as well.

I never heard of such a decision. The John Birch Society had lots of “Impeach Earl Warren” signs, and the Supreme Court was generally despised over Integration and defending the First Amendment.

But this particular ruling did not rise above the background grumbling.

Yes, but the difference was: with SSM, there was between 1998 and 2008 a pronounced spike in states *preemptively *passing outright constitutional amendments saying “not only will we never authorize gay marriage in this state, we will never recognize those from any other place, nor any arrangement that is in any way equivalent to marriage”. Before that it was just a matter of ordinary statute. While in the case of the interracial marriage laws, it was old laws from at latest the early 20th century for which there were 14 bitter-end holdout states after every other state had given up on its own. And as the 9-0 ruling showed, they did not have a constitutional leg to stand on.

That the popular opinion was unfavorable to interracial marriage was a separate issue but one that came down to “okay, we know most people just plain don’t like it but that’s not a legal argument”.

I agree that is a big difference. I was pretty young in 1967 but I don’t recall a big flap over this decision, and my impression over the years has been that not many people strongly believed that ‘inter-racial’ marriage should be illegal even if they didn’t like the idea.

I’m also to young to remember anything specific.But I’m pretty sure the general public didn’t really care about the Supreme Court ruling, because it was totally irrelevant to their lives.

It didn’t really matter what the court said, because you just knew deep down in your gut that, for sure, nobody in your family would ever even think about marrying a black person.
The world was a very different place than today.
(and now, a related question: )
The movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was popular that year, but I’m guessing that the public treated it as entertainment, like a science fiction movie, a soap opera, or a Romeo-and-Juliette fantasy---- not as a realistic plot that might actually happen to you personally. Does anybody know if I’m right?

The main reason for these constitutional ammendments was that the opponents of SSM could sense the shifting of opinion among Americans. So they triied to lock the prohibition up as well as they could while they still had a majority. But of course, they couldn’t really make it stick forever. If they could pass an ammendment, their opposition could pass one to repeal it once they had a majority in their favor.

This was the way things were going to go in my state. Or at least it looked like it. But the people who should have put it on the ballot delayed and then decided they could do it faster via federal courts. Personally, I think they should still go ahead with repealing the ammendment, just to remove that blotch from the document. And who knows, opponents of SSM could get control of the Supreme Court and reverse the decision. So you don’t want the prohibition to be suddenly effective again.

In the case of Brown vs. BOE many states simply ignored it for years. Worst example was Virginia school district simply shut down for a year. They reopened due to a court order.

The idea is that it is harder to repeal an amendment that it is a normal law. That certainly is true for the US federal constitution. I don’t know how true it is for the various state constitutions.

There were certainly proposed constitutional amendments, so at least some people were on board with the “holy shit this is coming, we’ve got to cut that off” thing. Just not enough people to get these amendments actually passed.

I don’t think that’s a very realistic scenario. In order to give a future Supreme Court even an opportunity to rule again on the constitutionality of state statutes banning SSM, a number of things would have to happen: You need a state which actually has or keeps a statute (or state constitutional provision) to that effect on its shelf, in spite of Obergefell. And it would have to actually enforce that statute, in spite of Obergefell. That would take a lot of guts from futre state officials. Then our future Supreme Court would need to grant certiorari against the judgments from lower federal courts which, sure as hell, will rule in favour of those who applied for a SSM marriage licence. And then, of course, you need Supreme Court judges who are willing to disregard stare decisis and overrule Obergefell, in spite of the fact that by that time, certainly hundreds of thousands or even millions of people will have got married relying on Obergefell. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I think it’s not a realistic scenario.

Not much attention that I recall, but by then I was living in Illinois, where it had been legal for 80-100 years.

The white daughter had landed a wealthy MD played by Sidney Poitier at his handsomest. “Realistic?” Not very. More like “You go, girl!” :wink:

ETA: No, honest. I recall reactions of the time that were roughly, “Yeah, but Sidney Poitier!” The man made a lot of good for racial relations just by being so damned good looking.

As I recall the* Mad* magazine parody of the movie had Poitier’s parents breaking up the wedding because he was too good for her.

Absolutely not correct.

I know because I researched it for my piece Ingloriously a Bastard? Mississippi and Miscegenation

But to provide something more independent than that, click on this map You’ll see that states like New York, Vermont, Connecticut, etc never had racial restrictions for marriage.

I misread New England. :smack: After rechecking it appears that, going back to pre-Revolutionary times, the actual number is 43 out of 50 states having banned interracial marriage at some point.