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Perez vs. Sharp

End to Miscegenation Laws in California

Photo courtesy of Free-Photos & Pixabay.com.

In 1948, Andrea Perez, a Mexican American woman, and Sylvester Davis, an African American man, filed a lawsuit against then Los Angeles County Clerk W.G. Sharp (Perez vs. Sharp, October 1, 1948). Earlier, they had sought a marriage license from the Los Angeles County Clerk’s Office, but were denied such because Perez was racially classified as white and Davis as negro. At the time, under California state law, no marriage license could be issued between a "white" person and a "negro" person. The couple argued that, because they were both Catholic and the church was willing to marry them, the state denied their right to participate in one of the sacraments of their religion, the sacrament of marriage. The case ended in the California Supreme Court and the couple were able to successfully overturn California’s miscegenation laws. California became the first state to do so, 19 years before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned all state miscegenation laws in Loving v. Virginia.