The Sordid History Of The Marriage License In America

From the wiki:

A marriage license (spelled licence in British English) is a document issued either by a church or state authority authorising a couple to marry. The procedure for obtaining a licence varies between countries and has changed over time. Marriage licences began to be issued in the Middle Ages to permit a marriage which would otherwise be illegal (for instance, if the necessary period of notice for the marriage had not been given).
So the license was a way to regulate who could marry. How was that applied in America (until reform came)?
In the early part of the twentieth century, the requirement for a marriage license was used as a mechanism to prohibit whites from marrying blacks, mulattos, Japanese, Chinese, Native Americans, Mongolians, Malays or Filipinos. By the 1920s 38 states used the mechanism. These laws have since been declared invalid by the Courts.
So the idea was to maintain racial purity among whites. These days it is all about sexual purity. Thus the big broo ha ha about gays getting married.

I take no position on the matter one way or the other. I just thought a little history was in order. Eric has also written on the subject here and here among other places.

posted by Simon on 11.16.08 at 09:11 PM


This puts me in mind of the less than appealing history of other social phenonoma, such as the eugenic theories behind abortion and birth control, or the racial ones behind gun control. Most modern adherents to these policies would be outraged to be accused of supporting such antediluvian attitudes, but examining the theoretical underpinnings of their programs might give them pause, or at least moderate their zeal and perhaps ratchet down their self righteous proselytizing.

I suppose the defense could be offered that while these "movements" began to keep down undesirable populations or prevent them exercising self defense, they today apply equally to all and are thus untainted. Statistical examination of violent crime or abortion by race or ethnic category might suggest their effects are not evenly distributed, however.

Steve Skubinna   ·  November 17, 2008 11:00 AM


Blacks disproportionately use abortion as a method of birth control. Violent crime has been declining. Some people think there is a connection.

M. Simon   ·  November 17, 2008 11:06 AM

They also dance and play basketball well according to some.

ccoffer   ·  November 17, 2008 8:01 PM

For most hetero couples a marriage license is needed because of the law not from desire. They plan a marriage to be held at a church or a romantic place. The ceremony is the important part and the party where all acknowledge the marriage.

Gays have focused on the license which they do not need to be joined. They like heteros can have a ceremony and a party. They can write their own partnership agreement as to spoils of property and power of attorney and medical power of attorney whhic can encompass all the legal entanglements they wish.

They do not need a state license.

RAH   ·  November 18, 2008 5:03 AM

M. Simon, I am aware that Blacks use abortion disproportionately, and also that violent crime affects them disproportionately. I was waiting, however, for you to blame both on Confederate Republican Klansmen.

Steve Skubinna   ·  November 18, 2008 7:00 AM


If you know your history you would know that the Klan drove the Republicans out of the South. Blacks in that time were Republicans. Lincoln and all that.

So I will assume sarcasm on your part.

However, things change. Johnson drove Southern racists out of the Democrat Party and Nixon invited Southerners in. Easy pickins. Now Nixon was not specifically looking for racists. He was looking for Southern folks who did not feel at home any more with Democrats. Heh.

And Reagan sealed the deal.

Political opportunity is where you find it. Now the racism for the most part is gone. However, the branding persists.

What would I do to reverse the perception: come out and say that the Drug War is oppressing the Blacks and other minorities and Republicans are against it.

BTW the drug war was specifically designed to oppress minorities. Read this history. It is very much worth your time.

Drug War History

This is a lecture given to Judges in California. A similar lecture was given to the FBI. The guy is no flake. He had access to government files for his research.

M. Simon   ·  November 19, 2008 8:31 PM

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