A Study of the Wyoming Miscegenation Statutes

A Study of the Wyoming Miscegenation Statutes

Wyoming Law Journal
Volume 10, Number 2 (1956)
pages 131-138

William E. Foster

The first ban on interracial marriage was passed in Maryland in 1661.1 Since that time, forty states have followed with statutory bans on interracial marriages.2 Twenty-nine states still have such prohibitions.3 Six of these states have constitutional bans as well as statutory provisions prohibiting such marriages.4 However, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington have repealed the miscegenation statutes which were once in effect in those states;5 and the Supreme Court of California has held its statute unconstitutional.6 While all twenty-nine states which have miscegenation statutes have provisions barring marriage of a White to a Negro,7 twelve states also have provisions which would bar marriage of Whites to various classifications of Asiatics.8 Three states in their statutes bar marriages of Whites to “Africans,” and have no explicit mention of Negroes;9 this type of statute would technically apply to the Dutch Afrikanders as well as to the Negro.10

…The Wyoming miscegenation law is composed of two sections.18 The first, section 50-108, will be referred to as the prohibition section, and the second, section 50-109, will be referred to as the enforcement section. These statutes are both derived from one Act, chapter 57 of the Wyoming Session Laws of 1913, which was originally introduced as House Bill 153 of that year and was passed February 22, 1913, to take effect immediately upon its passage.19 The present statutes are unchanged from their original form. The Wyoming prohibition section reads: All marriages of white persons with Negroes, Mulattoes, Mongolians or Malays hereafter contracted in the state of Wyoming are and shall be illegal and void.20

And the Wyoming enforcement section is:

Whosoever shall knowingly contract marriage in fact contrary to the prohibitions in the preceding section, and whosoever shall knowingly solemnize any such marriage shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon being convicted thereof, shall lie punished by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars, nor more than one thousand dollars, or imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years, or both, at the discretion of the court which shall try the cause.21

The Wyoming prohibition provision is characterized by its brevity; evidently the legislature did not see fit to define further any of the classifications set forth. Nor have there been any Wyoming cases dealing with racial intermarriages or interpreting this statute. However, when the Wyoming courts first deal with this problem, they will be faced with the formidable question of interpreting the prohibition provision. The very brevity of the statute gives rise to the largest problem-who comes within the prohibition of the statute?…

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