North Carolina’s Other Marriage Amendment

Amendment One isn’t the first time that North Carolina has put an Amendment regarding marriage in its Constitution, they did it in 1875 too:

If Amendment One passes on Tuesday, it won’t be our first state constitutional provision regulating marriage. In 1875, we altered our charter to declare that “all marriages between a white person and a Negro or between a white person and a person of Negro descent to the third generation inclusive are, hereby, forever prohibited.”

The 1875 amendment, too, was adopted shortly (two years) after an invigorated anti-miscegenation statute had been enacted by the legislature. Even more clearly than is the case today, the proponents could not have worried that an amendment was actually needed. No one fretted that a 19th century North Carolina court would invalidate the earlier separationist statutory rule.

The interracial amendment was apparently designed to serve other aims. It was constitutionalism by epithet, by exclamation point. No government structure or power or authority was actually altered. Instead, North Carolinians used the constitution to double down – to declare, in as potent a format as exists, their unyielding hostility to marriage between blacks and whites.

They etched a bold antipathy to equality, and a continuing assertion of superiority, into our foundational charter. Their official ascendancy would continue by law “forever.”

(The 1875 interracial marriage ban remained part of our state charter until a new constitution was adopted in 1971; though the U.S. Supreme Court famously invalidated anti-miscegenation laws in the 1967 decision, Loving v. Virginia.)

Hopefully it won’t take nearly as long for this mistake to be rectified.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Law and the Courts, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. The Dems controlled the legislature in NC for over 75 years I believe, until 2010. The law banning gay marriage went on the books here in the 90’s (95 I think) by the same Dem legislature. They passed it and it stayed unchanged until present day where it is now being added to the Constitution.

    NC makes the 30th state to have such an amendment in its Constitution.

    The outrage being displayed is rather lame given that history. The problem is not with marriage, it is with a government applying laws to it — the argument should be taken up with them and their need to exact a pound of monetary flesh from an institution that is over 500 years old in the Western world.

  2. Teebo says:

    And Obama, running unopposed here in NC, in my particular county, could only muster about 60% of the vote. Yea, we are a backwards bunch.

  3. Hello World! says:

    Who cares if they are democrats or republicans, NC is full of mean people who are full of themselves. They need to read a little less about Saddam and a little more about Gamorah. Too bad their IQ’s are too low to figure out that overturning inter-racial marriage in their state didn’t cause anything bad to happen.

  4. Hello World! says:

    @ladyliberty1885: Government has only been apply laws to marriage for about 150 years. The original marriage licences were granted to people in order to prevent blacks and whites from getting married, so government marriage has always been a racist institution. Religious marriage can be between me and my goat, if my religion allows it.

  5. george says:

    @Hello World!:

    Are you sure about that? Just about every country in the world has marriage licenses, and in most of them race has nothing to do with it. I’ve always assumed its had more to do with money (paying for the license) than anything else.

  6. Vast Variety says:

    Marriage has been around in some form or another for much of recorded history in both leagal terms and religious terms. It existed even before the creation of Christianity. Same-sex marriage has been around for just as long. One of throw first recorded same-sex marriages occurred in Eygpt around 4000 Bc. They were also legal throughtout France durring the reignn of Napoleon and was only revoked in France when their new constitution and civil code wasnadopted at the end of WWII.

  7. Tillman says:

    @Hello World!: My, what a wonderful thing to say.

    And the up-votes too, very nice.

  8. EDD says:

    There is no such thing as same-sex marriage. That is by definition a contradiction. Seems like the folks at this site, (believing in limited government), would be celebrating the people of the state of North Carolina being able to define marriage in their own way, regardless of what the 20 or so other states who do not have a same-sex marriage ban do.

  9. Rufus T. Firefly says:


    In America, it’s a candy mint AND a breath mint:

    In 1741 the state increased its control over marriages by enacting provisions for issuing marriage licenses or publishing banns. To “prevent clandestine and Unlawful Marriages,” the General Assembly at Edenton gave Justices of the Peace the authority to solemnize marriages in any parish that had no resident minister or in a county with a minister, with his consent. To ensure that there was no impediment to the marriage, such as a previous spouse, too close of a kin relationship between the couple, or a lack of legal competency, ministers read banns in the future bride’s congregation for three consecutive Sundays and later certified that no one had objected to the impending marriage. If the future bridegroom preferred to obtain a license, the clerk of the bride’s county of residence could issue the license, after securing from the bridegroom a bond for 500 pounds. The same Act also prohibited interracial marriages.

    (From the North Carolina History Project)

  10. Jeremy says:


    There is no such thing as same-sex marriage. That is by definition a contradiction.

    How so? Marriage is two or more people entering a very deep and intimate relationship, nothing more. Nothing about gender in there.

    Seems like the folks at this site, (believing in limited government), would be celebrating the people of the state of North Carolina being able to define marriage in their own way, regardless of what the 20 or so other states who do not have a same-sex marriage ban do.

    Actually, when you say “believe in limited government,” Doug takes that seriously–including limiting government at any level from getting involved in the marriage business.

    You can’t have it both ways, bud.

  11. Murray says:

    Our county approved the Marriage bill by about 90%. This is a small, rural area. There was a lot of work done by the local churches to get information out to everyone. Things move and change slowly around here. Most people here are mainly concerned about their jobs, keeping the local mill running. We’re just trying to hang on.