Virginia Lifts Condition to Disclose Race on Marriage Application
In a remarkable announcement that sounds like a step forward and away from racism, the attorney general of the US state of Virginia has said that the couples applying for a marriage license in the state do not have to mention their race in the marriage application form anymore. The announcement came in the wake of several lawsuits filed against the same.
Disclosure of one’s race to get a marriage certificate in the U.S. State of Virginia is ‘reflective of a racist past.’ But so far the statute had mandated mentioning of one’s race in the application form which provides options such as ‘Aryan,’ ‘Moor,’ ‘Octoroon,’ and ‘Mulatto’ for the applicants to choose from.
Now, marriage license forms in Virginia vary by county. Each carries about five specific options such as Whites, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. Few other application forms have ‘other’ or ‘mixed’ choices for the applicants.
Many of these categories are ‘outdated’ and are nothing but ‘offensive racist terms’ which have no relevance in the 21st Century.
However, these fields are included following the federal guidelines of the U.S. Census Bureau.
A racist past stands negated
Finally, over 50 years after the Supreme Court struck down Virginia’s laws banning interracial marriage, the state has successfully and effectively lifted the condition to disclose one’s race on a marriage application form.
Virginia is one of the eight states in the United States of America that followed a legal requirement provision to identify applicants’ race before issuing marriage application forms, prior to marriage.
Today, the state has negated any resemblance to anti-miscegenation laws, once existed to fight interracial marriages, courtesy the lawsuits.
Claims of the plaintiffs
Brandyn Churchill and Sophia Rogers refused to comply when they were told they could not have a marriage license unless they each select a race from the given list. They were provided with a list of 230 terms to choose from and identify their race.
Churchill clearly stated his intention to continue challenging the “constitutionality of the statute, so that the decision cannot be reversed by a change of position or Attorney General.”
In Arlington, Ashley Ramkishun and Samuel Sarfo were asked to choose the option ‘other’ if they didn’t wish to disclose their race. The plaintiffs refused to identify themselves as ‘other.’
Joined by two other couples, Brandyn and Sophia challenged the law which questions the applicants’ race while applying for the license to marry the person of their choice, in Virginia Federal Court, claiming the law is unconstitutional and has no place in modern marriage. It is nothing but a reflection of the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924.
The State of Virginia’s final verdict
The state of Virginia acknowledged the three couples’ refusal to mention their race to get a marriage license. Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring issued new legal guidance following their lawsuits. He states that applicants will be able to checkmark a ‘declined to answer’ box on the marriage application form instead.
Herring, in his memo, said that the state law, “does not require a clerk to refuse to issue a marriage license when the applicant declines to identify his or her race and that clerks should issue a license regardless of an applicant’s answer or non-answer to that inquiry.”
Further, in his statement to TIME, Herring commented that – “These changes will ensure that no Virginian will be forced to label themselves in order to get married. I appreciate the courage these couples showed in raising this issue, and I wish them all the best in their lives together.”
State Clerks have been already notified of this amendment and change in the memo. Also, Virginia State Registrar has issued and sent court clerks the new marriage license application forms.
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