In 1967, in Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down miscegenation statutes, which criminalized interracial marriage, as unconstitutional. In 2013, the Court in United States v. Windsor invalidated Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which precluded federal agencies from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples even if the marriages were legally valid in the couples’ home state. While Loving was a unanimous decision, the Court in Windsor was closely divided. Almost half a century after Chief Justice Warren issued his unanimous Loving opinion, the Loving dissent has been written. Justice Alito authored it in Windsor. Justice Alito fashioned his dissent as upholding DOMA. But the rationales he employed were much more suited to the facts of Loving than the facts of Windsor. In this Article, Professor Leslie explains how each of Justice Alito’s reasons for upholding DOMA applies equally or more strongly to miscegenation laws at the time of the Loving opinion than to DOMA in 2013. There is simply no internally consistent way to defend DOMA with Justice Alito’s arguments without also upholding the constitutionality of miscegenation laws. Thus, Justice Alito not only authored a dissent for the Windsor case; he effectively wrote a dissent in Loving nearly 50 years after the case was decided. His reasoning would require the upholding of Virginia’s miscegenation statute. To the extent that the legal community now recognizes that the former anti-miscegenation regimes represent a shameful chapter of American history, the fact that the same arguments used to defend miscegenation laws are being invoked to justify bans on same-sex marriage suggests that such bans are inherently suspect and probably unconstitutional.
Civil Rights and Discrimination
Sexuality and Sexual Orientation
- Journal title
Boston College Law Review
- Date submitted
8 September 2022