With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Gay Marriage Through a Black-White Prism

N 1947, the county clerk in Los Angeles refused to marry Andrea Perez and Sylvester Davis. They were of different races, and a California law said that “all marriages of white persons with Negroes, Mongolians, members of the Malay race or mulattoes are illegal.” The next year, the California Supreme Court, by a vote of 4 to 3, struck down that law in Perez v. Sharp.

In 2003, in another 4-to-3 decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court authorized gay marriages, and it invoked the Perez case as a model.

Last week, in a third 4-to-3 decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court stopped just short of endorsing gay marriages. It instructed the State Legislature to provide gay unions with a full complement of legal rights but said that the question of whether to call such unions “marriages” was a political, not judicial, one.

The New Jersey court did not mention the Perez case by name and it said that interracial marriage was not a useful touchstone in thinking about same-sex marriage.
Read entire article at NYT