The marriage records bill SB62 is seen as a big step forward in that there is no requirement for couples to disclose race when filing divorce/marriage records or annulment reports (State Registrar). In light of the new policy a box immediately under the race question “Declined to Answer” is present along with clerks now being required to issue licenses irrespective of the applicant’s answer and/or should the applicant’s remain reticent. To many inter racial couples the requirement was a reminder of the racial caste system carried on in mainly southern states between 1877 through to the mid 60’s known as Jim Crow laws. As well as banning inter racial marriage these laws placed restrictions on voting along with the imposition of literary tests and poll taxes. The definitive origin of Jim Crow, while being somewhat lost in legend, was a character (theatre) created by Thomas D Rice and followed white ideology of African American culture. Jim Crow was popular amongst black slaves as a folk trickster and in 1828 Rice popularized “Jump Jim Crow” a traditional slave song.
The legislation had progressed through all committees and the legislative chamber without being opposed by any law maker. The marriage records Bill SB62, was introduced by David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke. The bill was precipitated by a lawsuit filed in September 2019 by three couples from Virginia who had refused to declare their race when applying to be married. The result of the lawsuit set the wheels in motion and couples would not be forced to make disclosures as to their race or ethnicity to a registrar. That the issue of race should pre dominate the marriage of two people in the 21st century is irrelevant and unnecessary and did little to remove discriminatory practices. This current law applied to the commonwealth (Massachusetts, Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania), before the U.S. came about in 1776 these four states were British Colonial possessions. In October 2019, Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr, a federal judge struck out the race requirement as unconstitutional while also finding that the law violated the 14th Amendment. The requirement being the remnants of the State’s racial history and the “Act to Preserve Racial Integrity” from 1924.
During the 2020 General Assembly additional measures were introduced to erase erroneous State laws. Incredulously a class 4 misdemeanor (pre marital sex) that had prevailed was also removed following legislation, the class 4 misdemeanor also carried a fine of up to $250. The Virginia Supreme Court did, in fact, declare it unconstitutional in 2005. Fornication laws in Utah and Massachusetts were repealed in 2019 and 2018 respectively, while not forgetting North Carolina “if any man and woman, not being married to each other, shall lewdly and lasciviously associate, bed and cohabit together, they shall be guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.” Virginia also has the distinction of having the U.S. Supreme Court overturn laws that banned inter racial marriage. A couple in Virginia ( Richard and Mildred Loving ) were sentenced in 1958 to a year’s imprisonment for marrying. However if the couple agreed to move to the District of Columbia the sentence would be suspended for 25 years. While the Supreme Court of Virginia upheld the judge’s decision the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions in light of the judgement violating equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment.
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