Virginia couples no longer required to list race on marriage applications, attorney general says

Couples planning to get married in Virginia are no longer required to provide their race on marriage applications, the state's attorney general told state clerks on Friday.

The move comes after three couples filed a federal lawsuit in Alexandria Sept. 5 challenging a Virginia state requirement that they disclose their race on the application.

Civil-rights attorney Victor Glasberg says the requirement was a vestige of Virginia's Jim Crow laws and that Virginia had been one of only eight states requiring such applicants to note their race.

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One Virginia county, Rockbridge County, provided a list of more than 200 potential races to a couple that questioned the requirement. It included "American," ''Aryan," ''Moor" and "Mulatto," according to the lawsuit.

The clerk in Rockbridge, who took office less than two years ago, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that she didn't know about the list of races.

Attorney General Mark Herring wrote to the director of the Division of Vital Records, according to the news outlet, that the law "does not require a clerk to refuse to issue a marriage license when the applicant declines to identify his or her race, and that clerks should issue a license regardless of an applicant’s answer or non-answer to that inquiry."

Herring said the statute "plainly requires a question about race be asked. But no provision of the statute expressly requires the couple to identify their race or says what happens if they decline to do so."

“These changes will ensure that no Virginian will be forced to label themselves in order to get married," he told the Times-Dispatch in a statement. “I appreciate the courage these couples showed in raising this issue, and I wish them all the best in their lives together.”

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Brandyn Churchill, a 27-year-old who plans to marry Sophie Rogers in October, said earlier this month he was flabbergasted when the Rockbridge clerk's office presented him with the list, which he said illustrates how ridiculous the requirement was.

"How is this on a piece of paper from a government agency?" Churchill asked.

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Ashley Ramkishun, a bride-to-be, said she was told that if she objected to listing a specific race, she could list "other."

"We're not others. We're human beings," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.