Anti-miscegenation laws

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Anti-miscegenation laws or miscegenation laws were laws that enforced racial segregation at the level of marriage and intimate relationships by criminalizing interracial marriage and sometimes also sex between members of different races. Such laws were first introduced in North America from the late seventeenth century onwards by several of the Thirteen Colonies, and subsequently by many US states and US territories and remained in force in many US states until 1967. After the Second World War, an increasing number of states repealed their anti-miscegenation laws. In 1967, in Loving v. Virginia, the remaining anti-miscegenation laws were held to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. Similar laws were also enforced in Nazi Germany as part of the Nuremberg laws, and in South Africa as part of the system of Apartheid. In the United States, interracial marriage, cohabitation and sex have been termed "miscegenation" since the term was coined in 1863. Contemporary usage of the term is less frequent, except to refer to historical laws banning the practice.

United States

Nazi Germany

Discrimination against miscegenation mostly followed the mainstream Nazi anti-Semitism,[citation needed] which considered the Jews to be a group of people supposedly bound by close genetic (blood) ties to form a unit which one could neither join nor secede from. The influence of Jews had been declared to have detrimental impact on Germany, in order to justify the discriminations and persecutions of Jews. To be spared, one had to prove one's affiliation with the group of the Aryan race (cf. Aryan certificate).

Although Nazi doctrine stressed the importance of physiognomy and genes in determining race, in practice race was determined only through the religions followed by each individual's ancestors. Individuals were considered non-Aryan (i.e. Jewish) if at least three of four of their grandparents had been enrolled as members of a Jewish congregation; it did not matter if those grandparents had been born to a Jewish family or had converted to Judaism in adulthood. The actual religious beliefs of the individual himself or herself were also immaterial, as was the individual's status under Halachic law.

An anti-miscegenation law was enacted by the National Socialist government in September 1935 as part of the Nuremberg Laws. The Gesetz zum Schutze des deutschen Blutes und der deutschen Ehre (Protection of German Blood and German Honor Act), enacted on 15 September 1935, forbade marriage and extramarital sexual relations between persons racially – or rather racistically – regarded as non-Aryans and Aryans (persons of “German or related blood”), this included all marriages, where at least one partner was a German citizen.[1] Non-Aryans comprised mostly Jewish Germans and Gentile Germans of Jewish descent. However, Germans of extra-European and especially of African descent and Germans regarded as belonging to the minority group of Sinti and Roma (Gypsies) were also considered as non-Aryans. On the 26 November 1935, the laws were extended to "Gypsies, Negroes or their bastard offspring".[2][3][4] Such extramarital intercourse was marked as Rassenschande (lit. race-disgrace) and could be punished by imprisonment – later usually followed by the deportation to a concentration camp, often entailing the inmate's death. Germans of African and other extra-European descent were classified following their own origin or the origin of their parents. Sinti and Roma were mostly categorised following police records, e.g. mentioning them or their forefathers as Gypsies, when having been met by the police as travelling peddlers.

The existing 20,454 (as of 1939) marriages between persons racially regarded as Aryans and so-called non-Aryans – called mixed marriages (German: Mischehe) – would continue.[5] However, the government eased the conditions for the divorce of mixed marriages.[6] In the beginning the Nazi authorities hoped to make the Aryan partner get a divorce from their non-Aryan-classified spouses, by granting easy legal divorce procedures and opportunities for the Aryan spouse to withhold most of the common property after a divorce.[7] Those who stuck to their spouse, would suffer discriminations like dismissal from public employment, exclusion from civic society organisations, etc.[8]

Eventual children – whenever born – within a mixed marriage, as well as children from extramarital mixed relationships born until July 31, 1936, were discriminated as Mischlinge. However, children later born to mixed parents, not yet married at passing the Nuremberg Laws, were to be discriminated as Geltungsjuden, regardless if the parents had meanwhile married abroad or remained unmarried. Eventual children, who were enrolled in a Jewish congregation, were also subject to the discrimination as Geltungsjuden.

According to the Nazi family value attitude, the husband was regarded the head of a family. Thus people living in a mixed marriage were treated differently according to the sex of the Aryan spouse and according to the religious affiliation of the children, their being or not being enrolled with a Jewish congregation. Nazi-termed mixed marriages were often not interfaith marriages, because in many cases the classification of one spouse as non-Aryan was only due to her or his grandparents, being enrolled with a Jewish congregation or else classified as non-Aryan. In many cases both spouses had a common faith, either because the parents had already converted or because at marrying one spouse converted to the religion of the second (Marital conversion). Traditionally the wife used to be the convert.[9] However, in urban areas and after 1900, actual interfaith marriages occurred more often, with interfaith marriages legally allowed in some states of the German Confederation since 1847, and generally since 1875, when civil marriage became an obligatory prerequisite for any religious marriage ceremony all around united Germany.

Most mixed marriages occurred with one spouse being considered as non-Aryan, due to his or her Jewish descent. Many special regulations were developed for such couples. A differentiation of privileged and other mixed marriages emerged on 28 December 1938, when Hermann Göring discretionarily ordered this in a letter to the Reich's Ministry of the Interior.[10] The "Gesetz über die Mietverhältnisse mit Juden" (English: Law on Tenancies with Jews) of 30 April 1939, allowing proprietors to unconditionally cancel tenancy contracts with Germans, classified as Jews, and forcing them to move into houses reserved for them, for the first time enacted Göring's spontaneous creation, by defining privileged mixed marriages and excepting them from the act.[11]

The legal definitions decreed: The marriage of a Gentile husband and his wife, being a Jewess or being classified as a Jewess due to her descent, was generally considered to be a privileged mixed marriage, unless they had children, who were enrolled in a Jewish congregation. Then the husband was obviously not the dominant part in the family and the wife had to wear the Yellow badge and the children as well, who were thus discriminated as Geltungsjuden. Without children, or with children not enrolled with a Jewish congregation, the Jewish-classified wife was spared from wearing the yellow badge (else compulsory for Germans classified as Jews as of 1 September 1941).

In the opposite case, when the wife was classified as an Aryan and the husband as a Jew, the husband had to wear the yellow badge, if they had no children or children enrolled with a Jewish congregation. In case they had common children not enrolled in a Jewish congregation (irreligionist, Christian etc.) they were discriminated as Mischlinge and their father was spared from wearing the yellow badge.

Since there was no elaborate regulation, the practice of excepting privileged mixed marriages from anti-Semitic invidiousnesses varied amongst Greater Germany's different Reichsgaue, however all discriminations enacted until December 28, 1938 remained valid without exceptions for privileged mixed marriages. In the Reichsgau Hamburg, e.g., Jewish-classified spouses living in privileged mixed marriages received equal food rations like Aryan-classified Germans, in many other Reichsgaue they received shortened rations.[12] In some Reichsgaue also privileged mixed couples and their eventually minor children, whose father was classified as a Jew, were forced to move into houses reserved for Jews only, in 1942 and 1943, thus making a privileged mixed marriage one, where the husband was the one classified Aryan.

The arbitrary practice for privileged mixed marriages led to different compulsions to forced labour in 1940, partially ordered for all Jewish-classified spouses, or only for Jewish-classified husbands or only excepting Jewish-classified wives, taking care of minor children. No document or law indicated the exception of a mixed marriage from some persecutions and especially of its Jewish-classified spouse.[13] Thus on an eventual arrest, non-arrested relatives or friends had to prove the exceptional status, hopefully fast enough to rescue the arrested from eventual deportation.

Systematic deportations of Jewish Germans and Gentile Germans of Jewish descent started on October 18, 1941.[14] German Jews and German Gentiles of Jewish descent living in mixed marriage were in fact mostly spared from deportation.[15] In case a mixed marriage ended by death of the Aryan spouse or divorce, the Jewish-classified spouse residing within Germany was usually deported soon after, unless the couple still had minor children not counting as Geltungsjuden.[12]

In March 1943, an attempt to deport the Berlin-based Jews and Gentiles of Jewish descent living in non-privileged mixed marriages, failed due to public protest by their relatives-in-law of Aryan kinship (see Rosenstraße protest). Also, the Aryan-classified husbands and Mischling-classified children (starting at the age of 16) from mixed marriages were taken by the Organisation Todt for forced labour, starting in autumn 1944.

A last attempt, undertaken in February/March 1945 ended, because the extermination camps already were liberated. However, 2,600 from all areas of the Reich, not yet captured by the Allies, were deported to Theresienstadt, of whom most survived the last months until their liberation.[16]

With the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 the laws banning mixed marriages were lifted again. If couples, who lived together already during the Nazi era, however unmarried due to the legal restrictions, married after the war, their date of marriage could be legally retroactively backdated, if they wished so, to the date they formed a couple.[17] Even if one spouse was already dead, the marriage could be retroactively recognised, in order to legitimise eventual children and enable them or the surviving spouse to inherit from their late father or partner, respectively. In the West German Federal Republic of Germany 1,823 couples applied for recognition (until 1963), which was granted in 1,255 cases.[18]

South Africa under apartheid

South Africa’s Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, passed in 1949 under Apartheid, forbade marriages between whites and non-whites. The Population Registration Act (No. 30) of 1950 provided the basis for separating the population of South Africa into different races. Under the terms of this act, all residents of South Africa were to be classified as white, coloured, or native (later called Bantu) people. Indians were included under the category "Asian" in 1959. Also in 1950, the Immorality Act was passed, which criminalized all sexual relations between whites and non-whites. The Immorality Act of 1950 extended an earlier ban on sexual relations between whites and blacks (the Immorality Act [No. 5] of 1927) to a ban on sexual relations between whites and any non-whites.[19] Both Acts were repealed in 1985.

Middle East


In Egypt the government reviews[further explanation needed] all marriages between Egyptian men and Israeli women to decide on an individual basis whether to strip the men of their Egyptian citizenship. The cabinet takes into consideration whether the Israeli woman is an Arab or a Jew.

Egyptian law says citizenship can only be revoked if the citizen is proven to be spying on his country, and marrying an Israeli is considered an act of spying.[20]

Saudi Arabia

Saudi women are prohibited from marrying men other than Arab citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries without special dispensation from the King.[21] Under Shari'a law, Saudi women, as Muslims, are not permitted under any circumstances to marry non-Muslim men.

Saudi men require a government permit to marry a foreign woman and must be at least 25 years old to apply for such a permit. They may obtain a permit to take a foreign woman as a second wife only if their first wife has cancer, is disabled, or is unable to bear children. Saudi men are forbidden to marry women from Bangladesh, Burma, Chad, and Pakistan.[22]



Laws and policies which discouraged miscegenation were issued in various dynasties, including an 836 AD decree forbidding Chinese to have relations with other peoples such as Iranians, Arabs, Indians, Malays, Sumatrans, and so on.[23]


After the events of the Indian Rebellion of 1857,[24] several anti-miscegenation laws were passed.[25][26]



In 1723, 1724 and 1774 several administrative acts forbade interracial marriages, mainly in colonies, although it is not clear if these acts were lawful. On 2 May 1746, the Parlement de Paris validated an interracial marriage.[27]

Under King Louis XVI, the Order of the Council of State of 5 April 1778, signed by Antoine de Sartine, forbade "whites of either sex to contract marriage with blacks, mulattos or other people of color" in the Kingdom, as the number of blacks had increased so much in France, mostly in the capital.[28] Nevertheless, it was an interracial marriage prohibition, not an interracial sex prohibition. Moreover, it was an administrative act, not a law. There was never any racial law about marriage in France,[29] with the exception of French Louisiana.[30] But some restricted rules were applied about heritage and nobility. In any case, nobles needed the King's authorization for their marriage.

On 20 September 1792, all restrictions regarding interracial marriage were canceled.[31] On 8 January 1803, a governmental circular forbade marriages between White males and Negresses, or Negroes and White women,[32] although the 1804 Napoleonic code did not mention anything specific about interracial marriage. In 1806 a French court validated an interracial marriage.[33] In 1818, the highest French court (cour de cassation) validated a marriage contracted in New York between a white man and a colored woman.[34] All administrative prohibitions were canceled by the law in 1833.[35]

See also


  1. The existence of an Aryan race and other non-Aryan races as conceived and categorised by Nazism was an arbitrary and unscientific figment of Nazi racism.
  2. S. H. Milton (2001). ""Gypsies" as social outsiders in Nazi Germany". In Robert Gellately and Nathan Stoltzfus (ed.). Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany. Princeton University Press. pp. 216, 231. ISBN 9780691086842.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Michael Burleigh (7 November 1991). The Racial State: Germany 1933-1945. Cambridge University Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-521-39802-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Beate Meyer, Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der Hamburger Juden 1933-1945, Landeszentrale für politische Bildung (ed.), Hamburg: Landeszentrale für politische Bildung, 2006, p. 80. ISBN 3-929728-85-0
  6. Before 1933 the term Mischehe referred to interfaith marriages, which was a tax office phenomenon. German tax offices deducted Church tax from taxpayers, enrolled with a religious body, with the general tax collection by a surcharge on the income tax and then transferred it to the respective religious body. Interfaith mixed marriages, who were taxed as a unit, would have the charged church tax halved among the two respective religious bodies. Mostly the Roman Catholic Church, the respective Protestant regional church bodies and the Jewish congregations (in their case ending by Nazi act in March 1938) collected contributions from their members by way of church tax. Since the Nazis gave the term Mischehe a new meaning the tax offices were ordered to change their terminology to konfessionsverschiedene Ehe (English: denominationally different marriage). Cf. Cornelia Schmitz-Berning, Vokabular des Nationalsozialismus, Berlin et al.: de Gruyter, 1998, p. 409. ISBN 3-11-013379-2
  7. By the "Gesetz zur Vereinheitlichung des Rechts der Eheschließung und der Ehescheidung (EheG)" ("Act on standardisation of the law of contraction and divorce of marriages", as of 6 July 1938) divorce on so-called racial grounds was enabled. Cf. Reichsgesetzblatt (RGBl., i.e. the Reich's law gazette) 1938 I, p. 807, § 37 EheG (Bedeutungsirrtum), cf. also Alexandra Przyrembel, "Rassenschande": Reinheitsmythos und Vernichtungslegitimation im Nationalsozialismus, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003, (Veröffentlichungen des Max-Planck-Instituts für Geschichte; vol. 190), p. 86 (ISBN 3-525-35188-7) or – as to contesting or dissolving a marriage – see Bernhard Müller, Alltag im Zivilisationsbruch: Das Ausnahme-Unrecht gegen die jüdische Bevölkerung in Deutschland 1933–1945; eine rechtstatsächliche Untersuchung des Sonderrechts und seiner Folgewirkungen auf den "Alltag" der Deutschen jüdischer Abstammung und jüdischen Bekenntnisses, Munich: Allitera-Verlag, 2003, simultaneously Bielefeld, Univ., Diss., 2002, pp. 344-348. ISBN 3-935877-68-4
  8. Based on an evaluation of divorce decrees, however restricted to only one former Reichsgau, the discriminations and easements caused a divorce rate of mixed marriages 20% above the general average. Many divorces followed after the couple succeeded in achieving a visa and thus emigration for the Jewish-classified spouse, so the divorce would lift the discriminations hitting the Aryan-classified spouse, who stayed at home. Cf. Beate Meyer, 'Jüdische Mischlinge' – Rassenpolitik und Verfolgungserfahrung 1933–1945 (11999), Hamburg: Dölling und Galitz, (12002), (Studien zur jüdischen Geschichte; vol. 6), simultaneously Hamburg, Univ., Diss., 1998, ISBN 3-933374-22-7
  9. This was maintained by the pre-1939 practice of Jewish congregations in Germany, which denied Jewesses, who married Gentiles, to be precise non-converts to Judaism, to keep their membership in a congregation. This turned the Jewesses, if they did not convert to another faith, legally into irreligionists. On the other hand, Jews marrying Gentile women could (stay) enroll(ed) as member of a Jewish congregation.
  10. Beate Meyer, "Geschichte im Film. Judenverfolgung, Mischehen und der Protest in der Rosenstraße 1943", in: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, vol. 52 (2004), pp. 23-36, footnote 23 on p. 28. ISSN 0044-2828. Some historians judge this intervention of Göring as a tactical measure, in order not to arouse protests by so-called Aryan kinship, since after secret service reports the government organised November Pogrom in 1938 the regime did not feel so safe about the public's opinion on further anti-Semitic discriminations. Cf. Ursula Büttner, "Die Verfolgung der christlich-jüdischen «Mischfamilien»", In: Ursula Büttner, Die Not der Juden teilen. Christlich-jüdische Familien im Dritten Reich. Beispiel und Zeugnis des Schriftstellers Robert Brendel, Hamburg: Christians, 1988, p. 44. ISBN 3-7672-1055-X
  11. Cf. Reichsgesetzblatt (RGBl., i.e. the Reich's law gazette) 1939 I, 864 § 7 law text
  12. 12.0 12.1 Beate Meyer, Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der Hamburger Juden 1933-1945, Landeszentrale für politische Bildung (ed.), Hamburg: Landeszentrale für politische Bildung, 2006, p. 83. ISBN 3-929728-85-0
  13. Meldungen aus dem Reich: Auswahl aus den geheimen Lageberichten des Sicherheitsdienstes der SS 1939–1944 (11965; Reports from the Reich: Selection from the secret reviews of the situation of the SS 1939-1944; 1984 extended to 14 vols.), Heinz Boberach (ed. and compilator), Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag (dtv), 21968, (dtv-dokumente; vol. 477) p. 208. ISBN B0000BSLXR
  14. The earlier deportations of Jews and Gentiles of Jewish descent from Austria and Pomerania Province (both to occupied Poland) as well as Baden and the Palatinate (both to occupied France) had remained a spontaneous episode.
  15. At the Wannsee Conference the participants decided to include persons classified as Jews, but married to persons classified as Aryans, however, only after a divorce. In October 1943 an act, facilitating compulsory divorce imposed by the state, was ready for appointment, however, Hitler never granted the competent referees an audience. Pressure by the NSDAP headquarters in early 1944 also failed. Cf. Uwe Dietrich Adam, Judenpolitik im Dritten Reich, Düsseldorf: 2003, pp. 222-234. ISBN 3-7700-4063-5
  16. In summer 1945 8,000 Berliners, whom the Nazis had classified as Jews because of 3 or 4 grandparents, survived. Their personal faith – like Jewish, Protestant, Catholic or irreligionist – is mostly not recorded, since only the Nazi files report on them, which use the Nazi racial definitions. 4,700 out of the 8,000 survived due to their living in a mixed marriage. 1,400 survived by hiding, out of 5,000 who tried. 1,900 had returned from Theresienstadt. Cf. Hans-Rainer Sandvoß, Widerstand in Wedding und Gesundbrunnen, Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand (ed.), Berlin: Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand, 2003, (Schriftenreihe über den Widerstand in Berlin von 1933 bis 1945; No. 14), p. 302. ISSN 0175-3592
  17. Cf. the Bundesgesetz über die Anerkennung freier Ehen (as of 23 June 1950, Federal law on recognition of free marriages).
  18. Beate Meyer, 'Jüdische Mischlinge' – Rassenpolitik und Verfolgungserfahrung 1933–1945 (11999), Hamburg: Dölling und Galitz, (12002), (Studien zur jüdischen Geschichte; vol. 6), simultaneously Hamburg, Univ., Diss., 1998, p. 469. ISBN 3-933374-22-7
  19. Rita M. Byrnes, ed. (1996), "Legislative Implementation of Apartheid", South Africa: A Country Study, Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, retrieved 2008-01-04<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Cairo court rules on Egyptians married to Israeli women, BBC, 5 June 2010, retrieved 2010-10-19<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Saudi Marriage, US Department of State, archived from the original on 2012-06-14, retrieved 2013-03-20<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Saudi Arabia toughens restrictions on marriage with foreigners
  23. Gernet, Jacques (1996), A History of Chinese Civilization (2 ed.), Cambridge University Press, p. 294, ISBN 978-0-521-49781-7<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Beckman, Karen Redrobe (2003), Vanishing Women: Magic, Film, and Feminism, Duke University Press, pp. 31–3, ISBN 0-8223-3074-1<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Kent, Eliza F. (2004), Converting Women, Oxford University Press US, pp. 85–6, ISBN 0-19-516507-1<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Kaul, Suvir (1996), "Review Essay: Colonial Figures and Postcolonial Reading", Diacritics, 26 (1): 74–89 [83–9], doi:10.1353/dia.1996.0005<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. M. Allemand in "Traité du Mariage", imprimerie E. Leboyer (Riom France, 1847) p.129
  28. Arrest du Conseil d'état du Roi concernant les mariages des noirs, mulâtres, ou autres gens de couleur, du 5 avril 1778 (Lille: NJB Peterinck-Cramé, 1778).
  29. {fr} Pétition des hommes de couleur de la Martinique et de la Guadeloupe, Impriperie E. Duverger, Paris (feb. 1829), p. 8-9
  30. Louisiana code, art.
  31. Law of September 20th, 1792
  32. Archives nationales (henceforward A.N.) BB15–211, R4, no 3266
  33. Allemand 1847, p. 130
  34. Sir Beguin and Emilie born slave in Guadeloupe—Allemand 1847, p. 131
  35. Law of April 24th, 1833