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.