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Bill seeks to remove race question from state marriage license application

Delaware Public Media

Some First State lawmakers hope to help the state avoid legal issues with its marriage license application.




Virginia recently came under fire, facing a series of lawsuits regarding the race question on its marriage license applications. The law requiring disclosure of race was ruled unconstitutional.

Delaware is one of very few states that still asks couples to disclose their race on marriage license applications. 

State Sen. Bryan Townsend (D-Newark/Bear) got to work on the legislation to change that after hearing about lawsuits.

“I just think it’s taken a while for Delaware because sometimes, you have laws on the books, they’re not enforced necessarily they might even be consciously disregarded sometimes, for good reason, but it's important to clean up the books so that they reflect the kind of world that we should want to live in,” said Townsend.


Interracial marriage in Delaware was deemed “unlawful” as late as 1967. This bill would be the final step in a long process to fully remove those laws and their remnants, a process started in 1985 with State Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington North).


State Rep. Kendra Johnson (D-Bear) is the House sponsor of the bill.

“With the work starting during the off session, it gives us an opportunity to really look at it and put together a really good piece of legislation, and we can start off 2020 in a positive, loving manner that puts us closer to the reality that we all want for one another,” said Johnson, who added she hopes there is no opposition. 

“We shouldn’t even be thinking about whether or not someone’s race has to be on a marriage license and whether or not race defines love.”

The bill goes before the Senate Health and Social Service Committee for a hearing on January 15th