Brief History of Marriage Meddling in the United States
For many years, prevailing attitudes of racism in the United States prompted many states to adopt laws that explicitly denied "Negroes" the right to marry whites. By 1940, a majority (31 out of 48) of states had banned interracial marriage (or "miscegenation") in some form.
Gradually, as attitudes began to change 15 of the states overturned their laws:
*interracial marriage in California had been previously overturned by the State Supreme Court in a 1948 ruling (Perez v. Sharp).
The issue was settled once and for all in 1967. In the case of Loving v. Virginia the United States Supreme Court ruled that all bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional. The miscegenation laws of the remaining 16 states thus became invalidated:
At least two states enshrined bans on interracial marriage in their constitutions. Though these bans could not be enforced after 1967, the states would still have to go through the process of amending their constitutions to remove the offending language. This was not actually done until several decades later:
Are anti-gay marriage amendments the spiritual successors to miscegenation laws?
Columnist and blogger Andrew Sullivan recently speculated that there may be a correlation between states which were slow to legalize miscegenation and states which were quick to ban same-sex marriage. The assumption is that states that banned interracial marriage are fundamentally more intolerant of minorities, and thus the most likely to pursue a legislative agenda that denies legal rights to homosexuals.
Below is a list of the 27 states that have passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage (in chronological order) followed by the dates at which interracial marriage was legalized in the same region.
|1||Alaska||1998 (election day)||No such laws existed|
|2||Hawaii||1998 (election day)||No such laws existed|
|3||Nebraska||2000 (election day)||1963|
|4||Nevada||2002 (election day)||1959|
|5||Missouri||2004 (August)||1967 (court ruling)|
|6||Louisiana||2004 (September)||1967 (court ruling)|
|7||Arkansas||2004 (election day)||1967 (court ruling)|
|8||Georgia||2004 (election day)||1967 (court ruling)|
|9||Kentucky||2004 (election day)||1967 (court ruling)|
|10||Michigan||2004 (election day)||No such laws existed|
|11||Mississippi||2004 (election day)||1967 (court ruling)|
|12||Montana||2004 (election day)||1953|
|13||North Dakota||2004 (election day)||1955|
|14||Oklahoma||2004 (election day)||1967 (court ruling)|
|15||Ohio||2004 (election day)||1887|
|16||Oregon||2004 (election day)||1951|
|17||Utah||2004 (election day)||1963|
|18||Kansas||2005 (April)||No such laws existed|
|19||Texas||2005 (election day)||1967 (court ruling)|
|20||Alabama||2006 (June)||1967 (court ruling)|
|21||Idaho||2006 (election day)||1959|
|22||South Carolina||2006 (election day)||1967 (court ruling)|
|23||South Dakota||2006 (election day)||1957|
|24||Tennessee||2006 (election day)||1967 (court ruling)|
|25||Colorado||2006 (election day)||1957|
|26||Virginia||2006 (election day)||1967 (court ruling)|
|27||Wisconsin||2006 (election day)||No such laws existed|
There is some degree of correlation, though probably not as strong as Sullivan may have expected. The first three states to constitutionally outlaw gay marriage, Hawaii, Alaska, and Nevada, either have no history of miscegenation laws or overturned them prior to the 1967 Supreme Court ruling.
Of the 24 states that followed, 12 were states that had to be forced to legalize miscegenation, while the other 12 either had no anti-miscegenation laws or had already overturned them prior to the 1967 ruling. This means that an equal amount of states who have passed anti-same sex marriage amendments have no history of stubbornly regressive anti-miscegenation policies. Of the 16 states that did cling to anti-miscegenation laws until the 1967 ruling, 12 of them have so far passed anti-gay marriage amendments.
What may be more significant is to look at the list of 17 states that never banned miscegenation, and see what their gay marriage policies are:
|Connecticut||same-sex civil unions legal|
|Illinois||marriage defined as "one man, one woman" by statute|
|Iowa||marriage defined as "one man, one woman" by statute|
|Kansas||anti-same-sex marriage amendment passed (2004)|
|Maine||same-sex civil unions legal|
|Massachusetts||same-sex marriage legal|
|Michigan||anti-same-sex marriage amendment passed (2004)|
|Minnesota||marriage defined as "one man, one woman" by statute|
|New Jersey||same-sex civil unions legal|
|New Hampshire||marriage defined as "one man, one woman" by statute|
|New Mexico||no official definition of marriage|
|New York||no official definition of marriage|
|Pennsylvania||marriage defined as "one man, one woman" by statute|
|Rhode Island||no official definition of marriage|
|Vermont||same-sex civil unions legal|
|Washington||marriage defined as "one man, one woman" by statute|
|Wisconsin||anti-same-sex marriage amendment passed (2006)|
Here the correlation is much stronger. States that never banned interracial marriage/miscegenation are far more likely to have progressive policies regarding same sex marriages than states who did. While some of these states have formally outlawed gay marriage, aside from California, no state with a history of miscegenation laws has so far allowed same-sex couples to wed, enjoy civil union status, domestic partner status, or any other form of state-sanctioned legal protection.
Comments or corrections? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Far From Heaven by Michael Lind, The Nation, June 16, 2003.
Same Sex Marriage Laws in the United States, About.com, 2004