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Professor Kevin Maillard Discusses Marriage Licenses and Racial Labels with The Washington Post

Posted on Friday 9/6/2019
Kevin Noble Maillard

"Aryan" and "Octoroon": Couples challenge racial labels to get married in Virginia

(The Washington Post | Sept. 6, 2019) When they applied for a marriage license in Rockbridge County, Virginia, Brandyn Churchill and Sophie Rogers were told they could not have one unless they each chose a race, from a list that included “Aryan” and “Octoroon.”

The Supreme Court struck down Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage over half a century ago. Yet the mechanism by which that prohibition was enforced remains on the books: a requirement that all would-be newlyweds identify by race. To fill out the form falsely is a felony.

So, weeks away from their planned Oct. 19 wedding at a barn in Fincastle, Va., the couple is challenging the law in Virginia federal court. Joined by two other engaged couples, they argue the law is a racist holdover that has no place in modern marriage ...

... Kevin Maillard, a law professor at Syracuse University who has studied interracial marriage, said that while researchers might use the data, “I don’t know what the compelling reason that the state would have in retaining tracking of those categories would be.”

But he was skeptical of an effort to move away from race altogether.

“I think with the deep history of racial strife we have in the United States, these categories are going to remain incredibly important,” Maillard said. “My mother is racially mixed, but she considers herself a black person" ...

Read the full article.