|Perez v. Sharp|
Supreme Court of California
| Decided October 1, 1948|
|Marriage is a fundamental right in a free society; the state may not restrict this right with respect to restrictions based upon the race of the parties.|
|U.S. Const. Amend. XIV cl. 1, and Cal. Civ.Code, §§ 60, 69, 69a|
In 1948, in the case Perez v. Sharp, also known as Perez v. Lippold and Perez v. Moroney, the Supreme Court of California recognized that interracial bans on marriage violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution.
The four-to-three decision was authored by Associate Justice Roger J. Traynor who would later serve as the Court's Chief Justice. The dissent was written by Associate Justice John W. Shenk the second-longest serving member in the Courts' history and an important judicial conservative of his day. The opinion was the first of any state to strike down an antimiscegenation law.
Perez and Davis applied for a marriage license with the County Clerk of Los Angeles. On the application for a marriage license, Andrea Perez listed her race as “white,” and Sylvester Davis identified himself as “Negro.” Under the California law, individuals of Mexican ancestry generally were classified as white.
The County Clerk (named W.G. Sharp) refused to issue the license based on California Civil Code Section 60, which provided that “All marriages of white persons with Negroes, Mongolians, members of the Malay race, or mulattoes are illegal and void,” and also on Section 69, which stated that ". . . no license may be issued authorizing the marriage of a white person with a Negro, mulatto, Mongolian or member of the Malay race". At the time, California's anti-miscegenation statute had banned interracial marriage since 1850, when it first enacted a statute prohibiting whites from marrying blacks or mulattoes.
Perez petitioned the California Supreme Court for an original Writ of Mandate to compel the issuance of the license. Perez and Davis were both Catholics and wanted to marry in a mass in a Catholic Church. One of their primary arguments was that the Church was willing to marry them, and the state's antimiscegenation law infringed on their right to participate fully in the sacraments of their religion, including the sacrament of matrimony.
The California Supreme Court also based much of its 2008 decision In re Marriage Cases (2008) 43 Cal.4th 757, which declared that the portions of California law which restrict marriage to be between a man and a woman to be unconstitutional, on Perez.