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Giving states power to ban interracial marriage? GOP senator sounds OK with it.

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., expressed support for giving states the power to ban interracial marriage. Here's what that would look like.


Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., was widely condemned Tuesday for suggesting the Supreme Court shouldn’t have issued its 1967 ruling that legalized interracial marriage nationwide. 

Braun made the remark while ranting to a reporter about Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision that affirmed abortion as a right. He argued such an issue should be left up to individual states to decide, not the federal government. This type of "states' rights" argument has historically been used to justify racist oppression.

When asked if he'd be OK with the Supreme Court leaving the issue of interracial marriage up to states, Braun said yes.

Braun issued a statement later Tuesday in an attempt to quell the significant blowback he was facing.

“​​Earlier during a virtual press conference I misunderstood a line of questioning that ended up being about interracial marriage,” he said. “Let me be clear on that issue — there is no question the Constitution prohibits discrimination of any kind based on race, that is not something that is even up for debate, and I condemn racism in any form, at all levels and by any states, entities, or individuals.”

Don’t let his carefully worded response fool you: Braun’s statement doesn’t actually walk back his argument about states’ rights, and Americans should know what his claims would mean in practice. 

Before the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the right to interracial marriage in its Loving v. Virginia ruling, Virginia had a law on the books known as the Racial Integrity Act of 1924. The law banned race-mixing, including marriage between whites and nonwhites. Breaking that law was a felony punishable by jail time, and the namesakes of the landmark court case, a Black Indigenous woman named Mildred Loving and her white husband, Richard Loving, were given a one-year prison sentence in 1959 for breaking the Racial Integrity Act. Given an ultimatum to serve time behind bars or leave Virginia for 25 years, the couple elected to leave the state. They filed their lawsuit against Virginia several years later.

Under Braun’s logic, states should be fully entitled to pass such laws without federal interference. 

Photo Illustration: Mildred and Richard Loving
MSNBC / Getty Images

Keep in mind: Braun acknowledging that the Constitution prohibits racial discrimination doesn’t necessarily mean he opposes outlawing interracial marriage. The state of Virginia argued during the Loving trial that its ban wasn’t discriminatory because it applied to both whites and nonwhites. That argument was obviously struck down by the Supreme Court, but it’s still a rhetorical trick that allows people like Braun to claim they’re against discrimination without actually having to denounce blatantly discriminatory anti-miscegenation policies. 

From policies that force women to give birth, to measures that outlaw antiracist teachings, to directives that prohibit parents from providing gender-affirming care for their kids, today’s GOP is using law as a blunt instrument to hammer out its revanchist vision. 

We should take Braun's initial remarks about interracial marriage as his true beliefs, and as an indicator of where the GOP’s assault on civil rights will go if it’s unchecked.