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Tue Sep 10, 2019, 10:35 AM

Local Lawyer Suing to Strip Racial Checklist from Va. Marriage Licenses

Local Lawyer Suing to Strip Racial Checklist from Va. Marriage Licenses
Airey September 9, 2019 at 4:30pm

One local attorney and a handful of couples are hoping a lawsuit will force the state of Virginia to remove the vestiges of a Jim Crow law from marriage licenses.

Attorney Victor Glasberg filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday to remove a requirement that all couples seeking to get married in the state list their race on the license. The long-time civil rights attorney argued in the filing that the mandatory question subjects people to the relics of slavery forbidden by the Thirteenth Amendment, and the right to due process enshrined by the Fourteenth Amendment.

“Our conventional racial classification were born in and carried forward in white supremacy. You simply can’t get away from that. It’s a fact of life,” said Glasberg, who has spent the past five years digging into the history behind the requirement he calls a “relic.”

He found that the state is required to collect the racial makeup of couples per the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which also makes it a felony for couples to lie about their race on their marriage license application. The architect behind the law was Walter A. Plecker, a eugenicist who led a white supremacist organization and whose death by being run over with a car in 1947 was widely celebrated.

The long-time civil rights lawyer hopes that the Office of the Attorney General will side with him. Together the two sides could then ask the judge for a consent order declaring the race question unconstitutional without the need for a trial. ... The parties are scheduled to meet in court on Friday, October 4 for a hearing with U.S. District Judge Rossie D. Alston, Jr.

Staff Photo by Jay Wescott.... Kalina Newman contributed to this story.

Death of ‘a devil’: The white supremacist got hit by a car. His victims celebrated.

Walter A. Plecker, an avowed white supremacist who ran Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics for 34 years, in Richmond. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

By John Woodrow Cox
August 2, 2017

He built his career on the systematic oppression of blacks and Native Americans, becoming one of the country’s most influential white supremacists. For more than three decades, from 1912 until 1946, Walter Ashby Plecker used his position as head of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics to champion policies designed to protect what he considered a master white race.

He was the father of the state’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which designated every person in the state as either white or “colored” and criminalized interracial marriage. Plecker insisted that any person with a single drop of “Negro” blood couldn’t be classified as white, and he refused to even acknowledge that Native Americans existed in the commonwealth, effectively erasing their legal identities.

Then, on Aug. 2, 1947 — one year after his retirement — Plecker stepped into a road in the Confederacy’s former capital and was hit by a car. Blacks and Indians had good reason to celebrate.

“Dr. Plecker, 86, Rabid Racist, Killed by Auto,” read the headline of his obituary in the Richmond Afro-American.

“Dr. Plecker spent most of the years of his life in a vain effort to convince the nation and the world of the ‘dire effects’ of intermarriage between person of the colored and white races,” the story read. “He was still at it when the auto snuffed out his life Saturday.”

A separate column in the black newspaper described Plecker’s death this way: “We mention his passing here not to mourn him, but to applaud the fact that race haters of this type are disappearing from the scene.”

A column on the death of Walter Plecker that appeared in the Richmond Afro-American on Aug. 23, 1947.

In an extensive profile of Plecker that was published in 2004, the Virginian-Pilot noted that it was long rumored he’d been killed by a bus. ... “I know it’s kind of cruel to say this, but I hope the last thing he saw was an Indian driving that bus,” said the daughter of Lacy Branham Hearl, a Native American whose family had been torn apart by Plecker’s legislation. (The story noted it was a car, driven by a motorist whose race remains unknown, that actually killed him.)

John Woodrow Cox is an enterprise reporter at The Washington Post. He previously worked at the Tampa Bay Times and at the Valley News in New Hampshire. Follow https://twitter.com/JohnWoodrowCox

Walter Plecker

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