Marriage Equality in the United States: A Visual Comparison of State Prohibitions on Same-Sex and Inter-Racial Marriage

The Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley seeks to promote a just, inclusive and sustainable society.  The vision of belongingness-- of bringing all groups within the circle of human concern -- means overcoming and dismantling barriers to inclusion. Laws that marginalize or segregate groups on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation are a challenge to our vision. This past June, the Supreme Court, in the case of United States v. Windsorstruck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional because it treated married same-sex couples differently than married opposite-sex couples while denying them rights and disparaging the dignity same-sex couples. 


In the companion case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Court reviewed the constitutionality of state-based bans on same-sex marriage. Although the Court did not resolve the Constitutional issue, the reasoning of Windsor may support such a ruling in the future.

In this context, it is worth considering the overlap between states that enacted same-sex marriage bans and inter-racial marriage bans. These maps illustrate which states had anti-miscegenation laws in 1948 (topuntil the Supreme Court held in Loving v. Virginia (1968) that such laws violation the Constitution; and which states have exclusionary marriage policies by 2013 (middle).


In 1948, 30 of the 48 states had anti-miscegenation laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage.  As of January, 2013, 35 states had laws prohibiting same-sex marriage.   The third map (bottom) shows overlap between states that banned same-sex marriages and those that banned interracial marriages in 1948.  The overlap is striking.  Almost all of the states with same-sex marriage bans as of 2013 also had anti-miscegenation laws in 1948. Only one of the 30 states that banned interracial marriage in 1949 allowed same-sex marriage in 2013 (California’s state Supreme Court overturned the state prohibition in Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013)). Similarly, same-sex marriage equality is concentrated in the northeast, where interracial marriage was legal long before 1967. 

The ideas expressed on the Haas Institute blog are not necessarily those of UC Berkeley or the Division of Equity & Inclusion, where the Haas Institute website is hosted. They are not official and not of one mind. Thoughts here are those of individual authors. We are committed to academic freedom, free speech and civil liberties.