California’s History of Miscegenation Laws

  • 1880: Miscegenation [Statute]
    Made it illegal for white persons to marry a "Negro, mulatto, or Mongolian."
  • 1901: Miscegenation [Statute]
    The 1850 law prohibiting marriage between white persons and Negroes or mulattoes was amended, adding "Mongolian."
  • 1909: Miscegenation [Statute]
    Persons of Japanese descent were added to the list of undesirable marriage partners of white Californians as noted in the earlier 1880 statute.
  • 1931: Miscegenation [State Code]
    Prohibited marriages between persons of the Caucasian and Asian races.
  • 1933: Miscegenation [Statute]
    Broadened earlier miscegenation statute to also prohibit marriages between whites and Malays.
  • 1945: Miscegenation [Statute]
    Prohibited marriage between whites and "Negroes, mulattos, Mongolians and Malays."
  • 1947: Miscegenation [Statute]
    Subjected U.S. servicemen and Japanese women who wanted to marry to rigorous background checks. Barred the marriage of Japanese women to white servicemen if they were employed in undesirable occupations.
  • 1948: Barred miscegenation segregation [Statute]
    Repealed miscegenation laws. Prior to repeal interracial marriages were prohibited, but no penalties were attached to such marriages, or to interracial co-habitation, or to migration into California by interracial couples legally wed out of state.

Source: Jim Crow Laws: California

Marriage is a partnership of love and commitment. Yes, some people are attracted to people you might not be attracted to. This does not lessen their love or their commitment. Is marriage perfect? No, divorce is rampant, and marriage is on the decline. I say this from the perch of my second, happy marriage. The weakness of marriage does not mean that taking away the newly minted right of marriage from gay people is going to "restore marriage" or "strengthen families"–those are lies, and you know it. The thing that strengthens families is love and respect, and being strong in the commitment to YOUR OWN marriage.

Fellow Californians, please vote No on Prop 8. If you know a Californian, please encourage them to vote No on Proposition 8.

I got a question from a researcher in Germany about the history of these anti-miscegenation laws. Here is how Chuck Hartley responded:

I’ve never seen a single, unified work that discusses the history of marriage in California in a comprehensive manner. The story of same sex marriage and Prop 8 certainly remains to be written, particularly from my perspective.

When the Supreme Court issued their opinion last May they literally write the book on marriage. The combined opinions ran 172 pages. I think most of Michael’s historical questions are answered in III.A, pages 23-36 of the attached PDF.

That case refers to Perez, the 1948 case that legalized interracial marriage in California. There’s a good pre-Perez history in that case as well. Start with the first full paragraph on page 6 of the Perez PDF.

Note there’s really not much before the anti-miscegenation laws, which were passed in the early days of the state (1849 or 50). Before that the Bear Flag Republic lasted less than a year (1846), and before that status was as a Mexican and Spanish colony. I have no good sources for their legal systems in place under any of those regimes, though I’ll note that community property is a holdover from Spanish law, not an American or English originated system.

Also, a grammatical point for our German friend. Miscegenation is racial mixing. The laws were technically anti-miscegenation. Hyphen or not per your own conscience.

three comments so far...

Great blog Mr. Crawford. I find the racial history of California both intriguing and sad at the same time. My family came to California in 1769 in the De Anza Party from Mexico City. So it is with great interest when I am able to aquire information on the history that’s never revealed, but rather shunted to foot notes and word of mouth. In light of the “Illegal Immigration” hysteria that’s so prevalent in todays news, its illuminating to read of the genesis of this bigotry.

Excellent site, Joe. I would point out, however, that California’s miscegenation law was not repealed by the legislature, rather was ruled unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court, in the case of Perez v. Sharp (1948), which was a narrow 4-3 ruling.

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