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Virginia Couples Exempted From Declaring Race On Marriage Forms

markherring sept16 lt

Couples seeking a marriage license in Virginia have been allowed not to disclose their race.

As per Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring's order, the Division of Vital Records has made changes to the marriage certificate in which it was not made mandatory on the applicants to answer the question about their race.

In the guidance emailed to legal clerks and the media on Friday, Herring said, "We were happy to help quickly resolve this issue and get these couples what they asked for. These changes will ensure that no Virginian will be forced to label themselves to get married."

He said he is issuing the guidance in line with the principle, "statutes should be construed to avoid any conflict with the constitution".

He added, "I appreciate the courage these couples showed in raising this issue, and I wish them all the best in their lives together."

The Attorney General made amendment to the rule in response to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Alexandria last week by three engaged couples.

They argued that a Virginia state statute requiring applicants for a marriage license to classify themselves by race is "unconstitutional" and "reflective of a racist past."

"Any statute requiring a governmental official to deny a marriage license to an applicant who declines to provide information about his or her race would raise serious constitutional questions," Herring wrote in a memo sent to Janet Rainey, director and state registrar of the Division of Vital Records.

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