Half-Hearted Loving

Half-Hearted Loving

The Faculty Lounge: Conversations about law, culture, and academia

Kevin Maillard, Associate Professor of Law
Syracuse University

Yesterday, June 12, marked the annual celebration of Loving Day.  This event commemorated the 1967 Supreme Court case of Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated the state’s Racial Integrity Act that prohibited interracial marriages.  Notably, Virginia’s law was only one of many state interracial bans.  In the mid-twentieth century, 30 states had some form of mixed marriage prohibition, all struck down by Loving in one fell swoop.  In this momentous decision, the Court paved the way for all Americans to determine their intimate associations without regard to race.

More than forty years later, interracial intimacy—dating, cohabitation, and marriage—continues to go against the norm, rather than be a part of it. The 2010 Census reports that less than eight percent of all marriages are between people of different races, with slightly higher rates for cohabitating couples.  Multiracial people remain a very small part of the national population, just under three percent in 2010…

…However, the Loving case was not the Moses that parted the racial sea, ushering in multihued phalanxes of diversity. In a modern world where people are free to make their own choices, partner selection has not changed much.   Of course, a single case like Loving is not going to convert every American into the Temple of Miscegeny, and mandate interracial kumbayahs for everyone of dating age.  In the same way that the legalization of gay marriage would not unearth a wellspring of same-sex desire, a change in law does not automatically transform personal preferences…

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