US District Court Judge Rossie Alston held Monday that a Virginia law requiring marriage applicants to identify their race was unconstitutional.
The order comes as a response to a lawsuit filed by three couples challenging the requirement. The couples were denied marriage licenses after declining to provide their race as required by a state statute. They argued that the requirement was unconstitutional in that it “[burdened] their fundamental right to marry, [constituted] compelled speech, and [violated] their right to privacy.”
Following the couples’ lawsuit, Attorney General Mark Herring issued a memorandum in which he concluded that the statute “[did] not require a clerk to refuse to issue a marriage license when the applicant [declined] to identify his or her race.” In response, the state amended applications to include an option to decline to provide an answer.
Alston ruled in favor of the couples earlier this month, but clarified his ruling in stating that the question on race should be removed from the application entirely. The opinion corroborated the couples’ claim on unconstitutionality, holding that the statute denied the couples their rights to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.