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Interracial Marriage Laws History Timeline

Centuries before the same-sex marriage movement, the U.S. government, its constituent states, and their colonial predecessors tackled the controversial issue of "miscegenation": race-mixing. It"s widely known that the Deep South banned interracial marriages until 1967, but less widely known that many other states did the same (California until 1948, for example) -- or that three brazen attempts were made to ban interracial marriages nationally by amending the U.S. Constitution.

Maryland passes the first British colonial law banning marriage between whites and slaves -- a law that, among other things, orders the enslavement of white women who have married black men:

"Be it further enacted by the authority advice and consent aforesaid that whatsoever freeborn woman shall intermarry with any slave from and after the last day of this present Assembly shall serve the master of such slave during the life of her husband, and that the [children] of such freeborn women so married shall be slaves as their fathers were. And be it further enacted that all the [children] of English or other freeborn women that have already married Negroes shall serve the masters of their parents til they be thirty years of age and no longer."

As you might imagine, the white nationalist colonial governments did not leave these questions unanswered for long.

The Commonwealth of Virginia bans all interracial marriages, threatening to exile whites who marry people of color. In the 17th century, exile usually functioned as a death sentence:

"Be it enacted ... that ... whatsoever English or other white man or woman being free, shall intermarry with a negro, mulatto or Indian man or woman bond or free shall within three months after such marriage be banished and removed from this dominion forever ...

"And be it further enacted ... that if any English woman being free shall have a bastard child by any negro or mulatto, she pay the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, within one month after such bastard child shall be born, to the

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