Green v. State

58 Ala. 190 (1877)



As every well organized society is essentially interested in the existence and harmony and decorum of all its social relations, marriage, the most elementary and useful of them all, is regulated and controlled by the sovereign power of the state, and can not, like mere contracts, be dissolved by the mutual consent only of contracting parties, but may be abrogated by the sovereign will, either with or without the consent of both parties, whenever the public good, or justice, to both or either of the parties will be thereby subserved. Such a remedial and conservative power is inherent in every independent nation, and cannot be subjected to political restraint or foreign control, consistently with the public welfare. And, therefore, marriage, being much more than a contract, and depending essentially on the sovereign will, is not embraced by the constitutional interdiction of legislative acts impairing the obligation of contracts. 


On appeal from her criminal conviction, defendant contended that the statutory provision criminalizing the intermarriage of white persons and black persons, Ala. Code § 4189, was unconstitutional. 

The court affirmed defendant's conviction of the offense of marrying a black man. Since both black persons and white persons were subject to equal punishment for violations of Ala. Code § 4189, that provision did not discriminate against black persons. 


May a State make the marriage of a white person with a person of the negro race, a punishable offense?




The amendments to the Constitution were evidently designed to secure to citizens, without distinction of race, rights of a civil or political kind only--not such as are merely social, much less those of a purely domestic nature. The regulation of these belongs to the States. It is a satisfaction to find this recognized, impliedly, in an opinion of the Chief Justice of the United States, announcing the recent decision of the Supreme Court upon the civil rights act of Louisiana. This statute required those engaged in the transportation of passengers to carry colored persons in the same cars, cabins, &c., as whites: And the Supreme Court decided that so far as it applied to foreign and inter-State commerce, it was void, because the regulation of such commerce was, by the constitution, reserved to the congress of the United States. 

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