Virginia Strikes Down Jim Crow-Era Law Requiring Couples to Disclose Their Race on Marriage Applications

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For nearly 100 years, the Commonwealth of Virginia has required all couples seeking a marriage license to disclose their race. On Friday, a federal judge found that requirement unconstitutional, writing that the rule “burdens their fundamental right to marry.”

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch writes, Judge Rossie D. Alston ruled on a lawsuit brought forward by three couples who refused to write down their races on their marriage applications. They were subsequently denied licenses by the Virginia State Registrar, CNN reports.

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“(T)he statutory scheme is a vestige of the nation’s and of Virginia’s history of codified racialization,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring tried to remedy the law last month—telling clerks that marriage applicants could choose not to disclose their race and not suffer any penalty. But the couples involved in the suit weren’t satisfied with the change, calling it a “band-aid” that could be reversed under the direction of a new attorney general.

Judge Alston agreed with the couples that the requirement violated their 14th amendment right to due process.

The law was first put on the books in Virginia in 1912 as a way to prevent interracial marriages. Even after laws explicitly banning interracial marriages were struck down in 1967, thanks to the landmark Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, the requirement that a couple discloses their race on their marriage application remained for decades. It was finally taken out of the state code by the General Assembly in 2003 but was reinstated in 2005 “for reasons that remain unclear,” according to CNN.

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Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?