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The right to marry is as fundamental as the right to send one's child to a particular school or the right to have offspring. Indeed, the court is dealing with legislation which involves one of the basic civil rights of man. Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race. Legislation infringing such rights must be based upon more than prejudice and must be free from oppressive discrimination to comply with the constitutional requirements of due process and equal protection of the laws.
The applicants were Andrea Perez, a Caucasian woman, and Sylvester Davis, an African American man. In denying the license, the clerk invoked Cal. Civ. Code § 69, which provided that no license could be issued that authorized the marriage of a white person with a Negro. Section 69 implemented Cal. Civ. Code § 60, which stated that all marriages between those races were illegal and void. The applicants contended that the statutes were unconstitutional.
Were Cal. Civ. Code §§ 60 and 69 unconstitutional for impairing the right of individuals to marry on the basis of race alone?
The court found that the right to marry was a fundamental right and that legislation infringing on that right had to be based upon more than prejudice and had to be free from oppressive discrimination to comply with the constitutional requirements of due process and equal protection of the laws. The court held that Cal. Civ. Code §§ 60 and 69 were not only too vague and uncertain to be enforceable regulations of a fundamental right, but that they also violated the Equal Protection of the Laws Clause by impairing the right of individuals to marry on the basis of race alone and by arbitrarily and unreasonably discriminating against certain racial groups.