Posted on December 12, 2022

Interracial Marriages to Get Added Protection Under New Law

Denise Lavoie, Associated Press, December 8, 2022

One day in the 1970s, Paul Fleisher and his wife were walking through a department store parking lot when they noticed a group of people looking at them. Fleisher, who is white, and his wife, who is Black, were used to “the look.” But this time it was more intense.


That fraught moment occurred even though any legal uncertainty about the validity of interracial marriage had ended a decade earlier — in 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws banning marriages between people of different races.

In the more than half-century since, interracial marriage has become more common and far more accepted. So Fleisher was surprised that Congress felt the need to include an additional protection in the Respect for Marriage Act, which was given final approval in a House vote Thursday. It ensures that not only same-sex marriages, but also interracial marriages, are enshrined in federal law.


The Respect for Marriage Act, which passed the Senate l ast week, had been picking up steam since June, when the Supreme Court overturned the federal right to an abortion. That ruling included a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas that suggested the high court should review other precedent-setting rulings, including the 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

While much of the attention has been focused on protections for same-sex marriages, interracial couples say they are glad Congress also included protections for their marriages, even though their right to marry was well-established decades ago.

“It’s a little unnerving that these things where we made such obvious progress are now being challenged or that we feel we have to really beef up the bulwark to keep them in place,” said Ana Edwards, a historian who lives in Richmond.


For younger interracial couples, the thought that their right to marry could ever be threatened is a foreign concept.


Angelo Villagomez, a 44-year-old senior fellow at the think tank Center for American Progress, said it was “unthinkable” that his marriage could become illegal. Villagomez, who is of mixed white and Indigenous Mariana Islands descent, and his wife, Eden Villagomez, 38, who is Filipina, live in Washington, D.C.

But after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, “it feels like some of those things that have just been taken for granted … are under threat,” said Villagomez, whose parents, also a mixed-race couple, were married in the 1970s, not long after the Loving decision.

Villagomez worries about what could come next. “If we don’t put a stop to some of this backsliding, this country is gonna go to a very dark place,” he said.