Voters to chose fate

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 8, 2000

of interracial marriage law


Managing Editor

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Although a state law is on the books prohibiting interracial marriages in the state of Alabama, the Pike County Probate Judge and other probate judges throughout the state don’t consider it when they are faced with interracial couples who seek matrimony.

That’s because there’s a federal law that makes it clear that such marriages will not be prohibited within the United States.

"Clearly the state statute that’s on the books contradicts federal law," said Pike County Probate Judge William Stone. "We have operated as if that state statute is not a statute at all every since I’ve been in office. There is a federal law out there that contradicts that statute."

The issue is being brought to the state’s voters in November, giving residents the opportunity to voice their opinion about the statute.

Currently, the state’s constitution prohibits interracial marriages, but federal law makes that statute obsolete.

It is so obsolete, in fact, that none of the state’s 67 counties have probate judges that have willingly refused such a marriage in recent years.

"Clearly this is a cut and dry issue," Stone said. "As a matter of law, there has never been any debate that I am aware of among the state’s probate judges as to whether or not such marriages can be refused. It is not wise to challenge the federal statute in this situation, no matter what the state law says."

The Alabama State Legislature is putting Amendment 2 on the November ballot giving Alabamians the opportunity to wipe the state’s law prohibiting interracial marriage off the books.

As it stands, the amendment is symbolic in nature, carrying no real practical value since legislation exists nationally that makes the state stature moot.

"If this passes, this will not affect us in any way," Stone said. "We already comply with the federal statute."

But the addition is one that many legislators is symbolic of a racist history in Alabama, and others support the amendment for legal reasons, saying there should not be a contradiction on a question of law.

One of those supporters is Rep. Alan Boothe of Troy.

Boothe was in favor of putting the amendment on the November ballot. According to him, the state’s Constitution Û as shown by the interracial marriage statute Û is old and needs to be revised.

"I voted in favor of the bill for the amendment to be put on the ballot," Boothe said. "It’s a way to deal with this antiquated Constitution."

By keeping the law on the books, Boothe says that Alabama is in violation of federal law.

"It’s a situation of violating the law without intending to do it," he said.

Although the statute is not being blatantly used by any agency or individual in the state to ban interracial marriage, it does bring legal questions to the minds of some, while bringing images of racial oppression to others.

Stone debates the quality of the statute on legal grounds, saying there needs to be consistency between state and federal laws.

"We are already complying with the federal law here," Stone said. "Still, our state and federal laws, regardless of what the issues are, should reach the same conclusion."

Stone said he feels that when different laws provide different guidelines, something should change to make those guidelines consistent. By having directly contradictory laws, Stone is forced to break the law as outlined by the state to stay within the law as outlined by the U.S. government.

"We need these laws to be consistent," he said.