Couples in Virginia will no longer have to disclose race to obtain a marriage license
People seeking a marriage license in Virginia will no longer have to disclose their race, the state's attorney general said, announcing that he is eliminating the requirement that sparked three couples to file a lawsuit.
Circuit court clerks in the state were notified of the change in an email on Friday, according to the Associated Press.
"These changes will ensure that no Virginian will be forced to label themselves in order to get married," AG Mark Herring said in a statement to the AP. "I appreciate the courage these couples showed in raising this issue, and I wish them all the best in their lives together."
Last week, three couples filed a joint lawsuit in the Eastern District of Virginia calling the statute "offensive," "unconstitutional" and "reflective of a racist past."
One of the couples, Sophie Rogers and her fiancÚ, Brandyn Churchill, went to the Rockbridge Circuit Court clerk's office for a marriage license ahead of their Oct. 19 wedding and was informed that if they do not disclose their race, they would not receive their license.
Rogers and Churchill, along with the other two couples, had refused to provide their race and were all denied marriage licenses, according to the lawsuit.
"Plaintiffs deem the requirement of racial labeling to be scientifically baseless, misleading, highly controversial, a matter of opinion, practically useless, offensive to human dignity, an invasion of personal privacy compelling an unwanted public categorization of oneself, and reflective of a racist past," the lawsuit stated.
According to the AP, Herring wrote a note to the director and state registrar of the Division of Vital Records saying that circuit court clerks have to, by law, ask people wishing to obtain a marriage license their race but they do not have to answer.
They will be given a marriage license whether they disclose their race or not.
Couples were asked to tell their race for a Virginia marriage license. Now they're suing.
Three couples have filed a lawsuit challenging a Virginia requirement that people seeking a marriage license identify their race.
The suit was filed Thursday in the Eastern District of Virginia and slams the state statute as "offensive," "unconstitutional" and "reflective of a racist past."
One of the couples, Sophie Rogers and her fiancÚ, Brandyn Churchill, went to the Rockbridge Circuit Court clerk's office to obtain a marriage license ahead of their Oct. 19 wedding and was informed that if they do not tell their race, they will not receive their license.
Ashley Ramkishun and her fiancÚ, Samuel Sarfo, also want to wed in Virginia, where the couple met and where Sarfo has relatives. But they don't want to be forced to identify their race to get a marriage license, the suit states.
Amelia Spencer and her boyfriend, Kendall Poole, are moving to New York City but hope to return to Virginia to get married "but not if [they] must label [themselves] with a race."
All three couples have been denied a marriage license after declining to divulge their race, the suit says.
"Plaintiffs deem the requirement of racial labeling to be scientifically baseless, misleading, highly controversial, a matter of opinion, practically useless, offensive to human dignity, an invasion of personal privacy compelling an unwanted public categorization of oneself, and reflective of a racist past," the lawsuit states.
Virginia is one of eight states that ask couples to identify their race before they can marry, according to the lawsuit. The others include Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana and Minnesota. In New Hampshire a court clerk fills out the information about a couple's race. Alabama has couples fill out a certificate "that requires a statement of their race," the lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs also argued that there is no uniformity among counties over racial labels. In Arlington, where two of the couples went to obtain a license, they had to choose from: American Indian/Alaskan Native; African American/Black; Asian; Caucasian; Hispanic/Latino; Pacific Islander or Other.
In Rockbridge County, there was a list of "approved races" that included "Aryan," "Octoroon," "Quadroon" and "Mulatto," the suit states.
An attorney for the couples who want to marry in Virginia sent a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam urging him to "do what must be done to get on the right side of history." The letter referred to the Loving v. Virginia case in 1967 in which the Supreme Court struck down Virginia's law — and any laws — banning interracial marriage.
"In order to marry, plaintiffs, like the Lovings 61 years ago, must acquiesce in an unjustified, offensive and unconstitutional intrusion into their private lives, or, regardless of their desire to be married in Virginia, look elsewhere to get married," the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs are seeking "reasonable costs," including for attorney's fees. Rogers and Churchill are also asking that the court prohibit the clerk from denying them a marriage license so they can still get married next month.
Ridiculous this is still a thing in some states. I mean it was ridiculous it was ever a thing, but by now the laws should have been rewritten.
They're appealing to Gov. Ralph Northam? This Ralph Northam?