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:

state interracial marriage /
miscegenation legalized
Ohio 1887
Oregon 1951
Montana 1953
North Dakota 1955
Colorado 1957
South Dakota 1957
California 1959*
Nevada 1959
Idaho 1959
Arizona 1962
Utah 1963
Nebraska 1963
Indiana 1965
Wyoming 1965
Maryland 1967

*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:

Alabama 1967
Arkansas 1967
Delaware 1967
Florida 1967
Georgia 1967
Kentucky 1967
Louisiana 1967
Mississippi 1967
Missouri 1967
North Carolina 1967
Oklahoma 1967
South Carolina 1967
Tennessee 1967
Texas 1967
Virginia 1967
West Virginia 1967

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:

South Carolina 1998
Alabama 2000

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.

  state anti-gay marriage
amendment passed
interracial marriage /
miscegenation legalized
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.

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Related reading

Far From Heaven by Michael Lind, The Nation, June 16, 2003.

Same Sex Marriage Laws in the United States,, 2004