1964 December 7

Florida Law Banning Interracial Co-Habitation Unconstitutional

 

A Florida law specifically banned interracial cohabitation — but not cohabitation of unmarried couples of the same race. The Supreme Court on this day unanimously declared the law unconstitutional, in McLaughlin v. Florida. The Court, however, did not in this decision overturn a related Florida statute that prohibited interracial marriage between whites and blacks.

Laws prohibiting interracial marriage were declared unconstitutional in 1967 in the famous case, Loving v. Virginia on June 12, 1967.

The Florida law: “Any negro man and white woman, or any white man and negro woman, who are not married to each other, who shall habitually live in and occupy in the night-time the same room shall each be punished by imprisonment not exceeding twelve months, or by fine not exceeding five hundred dollars.”

The Court: “It is readily apparent that § 798.05 [of the Florida criminal law] treats the interracial couple made up of a white person and a Negro differently than it does any other couple.  No couple other than a Negro and a white person can be convicted under § 798.05, and no other section proscribes the precise conduct banned by § 798.05.  Florida makes no claim to the contrary in this Court.  However, all whites and Negroes who engage in the forbidden conduct are covered by the section, and each member of the interracial couple is subject to the same penalty.”

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