Virginia's attorney general announced that people seeking a marriage license in the state will no longer have to disclose their race after three couples filed a lawsuit challenging the rule.
State clerks were notified of the change in an email Friday, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said the changes “will ensure that no Virginian will be forced to label themselves in order to get married” in a statement to the newspaper.
The Division of Vital Records revised the marriage certificate form in the state to make it clear that applicants can decline to state their race if they choose to opt out. Previously, applicants had to state their race or select “mixed” or “other” to obtain a marriage license.
In a memorandum to Janet Rainey, director and state registrar of the Division of Vital Records, Herring said, “It is my conclusion that [the 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,” the Times-Dispatch reported.
Herring said his decision was “guided by the principle that statutes should be construed ‘to avoid any conflict with the Constitution.”
“At a minimum, any statute requiring a governmental official to deny a marriage license to an applicant who declines to provide information about his or her race would raise serious constitutional questions,” Herring continued.
Virginia Del. Mark Levine said this week that he plans to introduce to have the question struck from marriage license forms, according to the Times-Dispatch reported.
Three Virginia couples filed a lawsuit challenging the question this month. One couple reportedly saw that among the list of races to choose from were options including “Aryan,” “American” and “Mulatto.”