June 12, 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the case known as Loving v Virginia in which the Supreme Court found Virginia’s law against interracial marriage was unconstitutional.
In 1958, Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in the District of Columbia, where intermarriage was legal. They moved back to Virginia, to Caroline County (a bit north of Richmond)and there were charged with violating Virginia’s law against such marriages. They each were sentenced to a year in jail; the trial judge suspended the sentence for 25 years with the provision that the couple leave Virginia and not return together for 25 years. Their case was taken up by the ACLU and eventually resulted in the Court’s decision. The link above describes the case and the decision (it’s a bit long).
Things have changed. The idea of a state deciding that people of different ethnicity cannot marry strikes most people in 2017 as absurd. Legal restrictions on marriage in the US did take decades to be lifted, with Obergfell v Hodges lifting restrictions on same-sex marriage only in 2015. There are still a few legal restrictions. These include minimum age (usually 18), mental capacity and blood relationships (such as bans on cousin marriages).
The Pew Research Center has released a new report on intermarriage in the US. Written by Pew staff Gretchen Livingston and Anna Brown, the report shows some remarkable changes over the decades since Loving v Virginia . In 1967, 3% of newlyweds were intermarriages of some kind, which rose to 17% of newlyweds in 2015. In 2015, one in ten US marriages were intermarriages (this term is used in the Pew report and strikes me as useful). According to the report, in 1980 5% of black newlyweds were intermarriages, which has risen to 18%. The figure for whites was 4% in 1980 and that has risen to 11%.
The Pew report notes that in 1990, 63% of non-black adults said they would be very or somewhat opposed to a close relative marrying a black person. Today, that’s declined to 14%.
There are some sizable differences among groups. In 2015 the intermarriage rate for Asians was 29% and 27% for Hispanics. Among native-born Asians the figure was 46% and among native-born Hispanics, 39%.
There are also some sharp differences by urban area. In Honolulu, 42% of newlyweds are intermarriages, but that figure is 3% for newlyweds in Jackson, MS and Asheville, NC. Pew reports minor differences by education.
Perhaps the most important difference is this. The Pew report says that 49% of Democrats think that intermarriage is good for society. Among Republicans, that figure is 28%.
I’d encourage readers to read the whole Pew report (it runs several pages). I’d also encourage readers to look at the link above on the Virginia v Loving case. The trial judge actually said that God was against interracial marriage, and the proof was that He placed the different races on different continents. That kind of thinking is no longer mainstream, but it remains depressingly common. But it is important not to forget that there has been some hard-won progress, and some wins for the progressive side.
Thanks for reading
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Written by: Greg’s History AD