Virginia couples challenge state law requiring marriage applicants to disclose race

Virginia couples challenge state law requiring marriage applicants to disclose race
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Three Virginia couples have filed a lawsuit challenging a state law that requires marriage applicants to disclose their race.

After a couple in Rockbridge County reportedly saw that among the list of races to choose from were options including “Aryan,” “American” and “Mulatto,” they decided weeks before their October wedding to file the lawsuit in federal court and were joined by two other engaged couples who have called the practice archaic and racist, The Virginian-Pilot reports.

While marriage license forms differ among Virginia’s counties, most let applicants choose from white; black or African American; American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. If an applicant doesn’t want to identify by race identifies with another group, they must select “other” or “mixed,” The Washington Post noted.

In the suit — filed on Thursday in Alexandria, Va., according to the Virginian-Pilot — the plaintiffs argue that people should be free to identify by race if they wish, but that they shouldn’t be mandated to do so under the First, 13th and 14th amendments.

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Civil rights lawyer Victor Glasberg, who filed the suit, told the newspaper that the requirement echoes the state’s Jim Crow laws. He also wrote a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam (D) urging him to “get on the right side of history” and reject “tainted categories reflecting Virginia’s historical repression of non-white persons,” according to the Virginian-Pilot.

The practice remains despite the Supreme Court striking down the state’s interracial marriage ban in 1967. If a couple falsely fills out the form, they could face a felony charge, the newspaper noted.

Virginia is one of eight states requiring marriage applicants to disclose their race.