Symposium at UVA Law to Explore Legal Legacy of Loving

Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky To Deliver Keynote
Loving symposium
January 11, 2018

A symposium at the University of Virginia School of Law will examine the legal impact of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision that declared states' interracial marriage bans unconstitutional. (Full Schedule)

Sponsored by the Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law, the UVA Vice Provost for the Arts and the Minority Rights Coalition, the Jan. 25-26 event will bring some of the nation's leading legal academics to discuss the lasting legacy of the case in the 50 years since it was decided.

Loving v. Virginia was the first Supreme Court opinion to explicitly ground an equal protection holding in the principle that the 14th Amendment was intended to eradicate white supremacy,” said third-year UVA Law student Natalie Abshez, development manager for the journal.

In the case, Richard and Mildred Loving challenged "miscegenation" laws in Virginia that barred marriage between blacks and whites. The pair married in Washington, D.C., and returned to their home state in 1958, where they were charged with unlawful cohabitation and jailed. They then moved to Washington, but were arrested in Virginia again five years later for traveling together. After writing Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy '51 for help, Mildred Loving was referred to the ACLU, which represented the couple in Loving.

“In the 50 years since its decision, Loving has become the basis for decisions involving the rights of same-sex couples, including Obergefell v. Hodges,” Abshez said. “The symposium asks what Loving can teach us about race, inequality and sexual autonomy in today’s legal landscape.”

Keynote speaker Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, will kick off the conference at 3 p.m. in Caplin Pavilion. The founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, Chemerinsky teaches classes on constitutional law and the federal courts, and has authored 10 books and more than 200 law articles.

After Chemerinsky's talk, a panel of UVA professors and a student will gather in Minor Hall to discuss the 2016 film "Loving," based on the case. On Friday, participants in several panels will again gather in Caplin Pavilion to discuss the impact of the decision.

The Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law is published three times annually by UVA Law students and examines legal, judicial and political perspectives relating to the interaction of law and social policy.

All symposium events are free and open to the public.

Loving Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

A Symposium Reflecting on Loving v. Virginia on Its 50th Anniversary

Thursday, Jan. 25

3-4 p.m.

Caplin Pavilion, School of Law


Risa Goluboff, Dean, Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law, Professor of History, University of Virginia School of Law

Keynote Address: Loving v. Virginia as a Triumph and Failure of the Supreme Court

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law

5:15-8 p.m.

Minor Hall Room 125, University of Virginia

Screening of the 2016 Film “Loving”

Free pizza

Panel Discussion:

  • Liza Ayres, UVA Class of 2019
  • Sylvia Chong, Associate Professor of English and American Studies; Director, Asian Pacific American Studies Minor, University of Virginia
  • Susan Fraiman, Professor of English, University of Virginia
  • Lisa Woolfork, Associate Professor of English; Faculty Affiliate, The Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, University of Virginia

Friday, Jan. 26

Caplin Pavilion, School of Law

9 a.m.


Risa Goluboff, Dean, Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law, Professor of History, University of Virginia School of Law

9:15-10:45 a.m.

Loving’s Meaning

Loving v. Virginia is one of the Supreme Court’s most celebrated cases. But do we understand what it really meant? Why did the constitutional challenge come when it did, why did the public react the way it did, and why did the case focus on white supremacy but leave the concept of biological race uninterrogated? Does its focus on white supremacy provide a useful tool for legal analysis and social change in today’s environment?


  • Katherine Franke, Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Columbia University
  • Randall L. Kennedy, Michael R. Klein Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • Robin A. Lenhardt, Professor of Law and Faculty Director, Center on Race, Law and Justice, Fordham Law School
  • Moderator: Dayna Bowen Matthew '87, William L. Matheson and Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law, F. Palmer Weber Research Professor of Civil Liberties and Human Rights, University of Virginia School of Law

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Loving as a Means of Social and Legal Transformation

Can we mobilize concepts from the Loving opinion today to provide analytical tools for legal and social change? Should contemporary jurisprudence draw on Loving’s focus on eradicating hierarchies? Does its focus on the social meaning behind discriminatory statutes provide a model for judicial scrutiny of statutes? Or does its focus on criminality limit its impact on other areas of discrimination, such as child custody disputes?


  • Kim Forde-Mazrui, Mortimer M. Caplin Professor of Law, Earle K. Shawe Professor of Employment Law; Director, Center for the Study of Race and Law, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Melissa Murray, Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of Law; Faculty Director, Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  • Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Chancellor’s Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  • Moderator: Deborah Hellman, David Lurton Massee, Jr., Professor of Law, Roy L. and Rosamond Woodruff Morgan Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law

12:30-1:30 p.m.


2-3:30 p.m.

Loving’s Promise for LGBTQ Communities

Today, the Loving case continues to influence constitutional decision-making along a variety of axes, and especially in the area of LGBTQ rights. This panel will explore several contemporary applications and amendments of the Loving logic, including the Supreme Court’s recent approach to discriminatory impact in Obergefell v. Hodges, race and class dynamics in same-sex relationships, the harm experienced by children when their LGBT parents are denied equal access to the public sphere, and the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.


  • Holning S. Lau, Willie Person Mangum Distinguished Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Development, University of North Carolina School of Law
  • Doug NeJaime, Professor of Law, Yale Law School
  • Catherine Smith, Professor of Law and Associate Dean of Institutional Diversity and Inclusiveness, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
  • Moderator: Micah Schwartzman '05, Joseph W. Dorn Research Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

Media Contact

Mike Fox
Director of Media Relations / (434) 982-6832

News Highlights