2001, A Race Odyssey: Alabama’s Anti-Miscegenation Statute is Repealed
This is the series finale about laws forbidding interracial marriage. Part 1 was an introduction to the topic and “A Short History of Anti-Miscegenation Statutes,” dating back to the Reconstruction Era. Part 2 took a look into the criminal cases arising out of the anti-miscegenation statutes, which resulted in the courts in Alabama nullifying marriages between black and white residents. Part 3 reviewed Pace v. Alabama, the United States Supreme Court case arising out of Alabama’s anti-miscegenation statutes, in which the Supreme Court upheld racial classification as long as the laws applied to all races in equal measure. Part 4 told the story of Jesse Williams who endured multiple criminal trials for his interracial marriage with white women. Part 5 addressed the movement away from classification by the Supreme Court. Part 6 looked at the Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia, that struck down anti-miscegenation statutes based on racial classification being found unconstitutional. This finale addresses the vote on the 2000 general election ballot that repealed Alabama’s anti-miscegenation statute.
Constitution of Alabama of 1901
Article IV, § 102 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 historically read in part: “Miscegenation laws. The legislature shall never pass any law to authorize or legalize any marriage between any white person and a negro, or descendant of a negro.” As such, while Loving v. Virginia rendered unenforceable the Alabama criminal statutes that prohibited interracial marriage and sexual relationships, the state legislature had no authority to remove the nullified statutes or to otherwise legalize the institution of marriage between black and white persons. Only two avenues were available whereby the removal of the nullified code sections could be effected: drafting a new state constitution or allowing the residents of the State of Alabama to vote on an amendment directly.
A Vote to Repeal Alabama’s Anti-Miscegenation Statute
Alabama’s residents were afforded the opportunity to vote to remove § 102 to the state constitution on the November 2000 ballot, via a proposal known as Amendment 2. As of that date, Alabama was the last state in the United States to have anti-miscegenation language remaining in its constitution. Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor supported the removal of Section 102: “From my perspective, we have a provision in the state’s fundamental law that violates the U.S. Constitution. We should want our state Constitution to promote the ideals of U.S. Constitution. We have a provision that is obsolete, unenforceable and uncivilized. We should repeal it.” State Representative Alvin Holmes, a sponsor of Amendment 2, recognized that the language in the state constitution “gives the state a bad image and it should be abolished.”
Nevertheless, two Confederate heritage groups opposed removing the amendment; most vocally the Confederate Heritage Political Action Committee and the Southern Party on varying grounds. Initially, they argued that despite the constitution’s clear language it was not intended to prohibit interracial marriage. The groups then switched tactics to contend that there was no need to remove the language since it was already unenforceable. Mike Chappell of the Confederate Heritage Political Action Committee stated in defense of their opposition: ”You know just as good as I do that Southern people don’t want their children to marry interracial. The black people feel that way, too.”
Although opponents of Amendment 2 were vocal, they were in the minority. The amendment’s proponents recognized the Section 102’s language as “racist and immoral.” On November 7, 2000, voters in Alabama elected to repeal the language of Section 102; Amendment 2 passed by a margin of 59% in favor and 41% against.
Alabama Ballot Receives National Attention
While leaders like Alvin Holmes and members of the media recognized that the State of Alabama would have received a political black eye from around the nation had Amendment 2 been voted down, the passing of Amendment 2 garnered headlines and bylines in newspapers from coast-to-coast: “Voters in Alabama approved a referendum to end a 99-year-old constitutional ban on marriages between blacks and whites. Alabama was the last state to have such a law, which had not been enforced for years.” The Boston Globe made mention of Alabama voters “striking down a 99-year-old Alabama law against interracial marriage,” as did the Chicago Tribune: “Alabama voters removed an unenforceable 99-year-old ban on interracial marriage.” The Los Angeles Times also took note of the Alabama election:
In Alabama, voters removed a 99-year-old provision from the state Constitution that barred interracial marriage. The law was unenforceable under a 1967 Supreme Court ruling. Still, some residents and minority groups were watching the outcome closely. When South Carolina revoked its interracial marriage law two years ago, 38% of voters voted to retain the ban. Similar laws were once on the books in as many as 40 states, though Alabama would be the last to eliminate its version.
In addition to similar statements in other notable news outlets like USA Today, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, the New York Times added: “Alabama did banish one vestige of its past yesterday: voters approved, by about 60 percent, a constitutional amendment that would abolish a ban on interracial marriage contained in the state’s 1901 Constitution. Alabama was the last state in the nation with such a constitutional provision still in place, although it has not been legally enforceable for many years.”
Owing to the election results of November 7, 2000, Article IV, § 102 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 now reads: “Miscegenation laws. The legislature shall never pass any law to authorize or legalize any marriage between any white person and a negro, or descendant of a negro. This section has been annulled by Amendment 667.”
- Part 1, “A Short History of Anti-Miscegenation Statutes“
- Part 2, “Nullifying Black-White Marriage in Alabama“
- Part 3, “Pace v. Alabama: Upholding Racial Classification at the Supreme Court“
- Part 4, “Repeat Offender: The Saga of Jesse Williams“
- Part 5, “Courts Move against Racial Classification and toward Interracial Marriage“
- Part 6, “Loving v. Virginia: An End to Interracial Marriage Bans“
- Part 7, “2001, A Race Odyssey: Alabama’s Anti-Miscegenation Statute is Repealed“
 The Birmingham News, “2 Confederate Groups: No Effort to Keep Law on Marriage, Race,” 6 Sep. 2000.
 The Birmingham News, “Critic: Don’t Change Marriage Ban PAC Leader Counting on Southern Culture,” 19 Sep. 2000.
 Bill Pryor (Editorial), The Birmingham News, 1 Oct. 2000.
 The Birmingham News, “Voters Remove State Interracial Marriage Ban,” 8 Nov. 2000. Following the November 7 election, Mike Chappell filed a lawsuit challenging the passage of Amendment 2 claiming that its intent was not clearly stated on the ballot; the suit was dismissed by Judge Tracy McCooey of the Circuit Court of Montgomery County. The Birmingham News, “The Digest,” 19 Dec. 2000.
 Manual Marlon, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Southern Referendums, South Carolina voters OK education lottery Alabama votes to lift interracial marriage ban,” 8 Nov. 2000.
 Anne Barnard, Boston Globe, “Michigan Says No to Question on Vouchers,” 8 Nov. 2000; V. Dion Hayes and Judith Graham, Chicago Tribune, “California, Michigan Reject Vouchers,” 9 Nov. 2000.
 Aaron Zitner, Los Angeles Times, “Decision 2000,” 8 Nov. 2000.
 New York Times, “South,” 9 Nov. 2000.
Photo by Jae-sun Gim.