Few authors can bring cases and their meaning(s) alive like Professor Bennett Capers. Capers does not disappoint with his recent chapter The Crime of Loving: Loving, Lawrence, and Beyond. Capers provides a criminal law lens for family law scholars to further examine and understand the landmark decision, Loving v. Virginia. In Loving, the Supreme Court struck down Virginia statutes that criminally prohibited and punished marriage between Whites and non-Whites as violations of equal protection and due process. In reconsidering this landmark case through the lens of criminal law, Capers exposes the power of “white-letter law,” which “suggests societal and normative laws that stand side by side and often undergird black-letter law, but . . . [that] remain invisible to the naked eye.” (P. 120.) More so, Capers beautifully reveals how “Loving and Lawrence both serve as cautionary reminders of the long leash we have given to criminal law.” (P. 125.) He details the many ways in which criminal law has been used to regulate and shape many aspects of our personal and social lives. Noting such regulation has occurred through the use of “a whole host of victimless crimes,” such as adultery, gambling, pornography, and premarital sex, Capers joins scholars such as Melissa Murray in exposing the often-ignored manner in which criminal law is used to invade citizens’ privacy and enact a moral code upon behaviors that are not generally associated with criminality.
Capers begins his chapter with a compelling narrative that provides a vivid picture of Loving’s limited impact on towns such as his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. Capers starts by comparing the “Charleston of [his] youth,” a place that “had only one interracial couple” with Richard and Mildred Loving’s hometown of Central Point, Virginia, a rare, integrated community in the South “in which [the Lovings] knew they could live as husband and wife . . . . a place where they would be welcome . . . . a place they could call home.” (Pp. 114, 118–19.) The difference, Capers explains, was not the black-letter law in the two locations; after all, interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia at the time the Lovings got married, but was legal in Charleston—and indeed, nationally—during his youth. Rather, the difference was in the white-letter law, the extralegal prohibitions “that reminded people of their place and reminds them still.” (P. 116.) As Capers makes clear, “Brown or no Brown, Loving or no Loving,” the Charleston of his youth and of today includes very few interracial families because “people kn[o]w their place.” (P. 116.) Indeed, Capers implies that a black-letter prohibition was unnecessary to maintain this status quo. He writes: Continue reading "Lots of Love for this Loving Analysis"