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AG Herring: Race details not needed for marriage licenses

(AP) Couples planning to get married in the state will no longer have to disclose their race on their marriage application, Virginia’s attorney general said.

Clerks were notified of the change in an email Sept. 13, about a week after three couples filed a federal lawsuit challenging the state requirement, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported .

“These changes will ensure that no Virginian will be forced to label themselves in order to get married,” Herring said in a statement to the newspaper. “I appreciate the courage these couples showed in raising this issue, and I wish them all the best in their lives together.”

In a memorandum to Janet Rainey, director and state registrar of the Division of Vital Records, Herring wrote that circuit court clerks, by law, must ask people seeking a marriage license their race, but he said couples can decline to answer the question. Clerks should issue a marriage license regardless of whether an applicant answers the question, Herring said.

The Division of Vital Records has revised the marriage certificate form so couples know they are free to decline to answer the question.

The lawsuit said one Virginia county provided a list of more than 200 potential races to a couple that questioned the requirement. It included “American,” ”Aryan,” ”Moor” and “Mulatto.”

Civil-rights lawyer Victor Glasberg, who had filed the lawsuit, said Virginia was one of only eight states requiring marriage applicants to disclose their race.

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