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Bill removing race requirement in marriage records passes

The General Assembly passed legislation eliminating the requirement that couples identify their race when filing marriage records to the state registrar.

Capital News Service

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By Zach Armstrong

When William Christiansen married his college sweetheart, he was disturbed that they had to disclose their race to the registrar, considering they are an interracial couple.

“It reminded me and my wife of a time when interracial couples were unable to get married,” said Christiansen. “It’s an unneeded reminder of the discriminatory practices that dominated the South during Jim Crow.”

Both chambers of the General Assembly passed legislation to eliminate the race requirement on the marriage license application. Under Senate Bill 62, married couples will not have to disclose their race when filing marriage records, divorce and annulment reports to the state registrar.

The bill was introduced by Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke. The legislation moved through every committee and legislative chamber without opposition from any lawmaker.

“Asking for race seems completely unrelated to whether a state should recognize a marriage,” Christiansen said. “It sends a signal that those in charge of policy related to marriage applications care little about removing the legacy of discriminatory practices of their predecessors.”

Under current law, the race of the marrying parties along with other personal data is filed with the state registrar when a marriage is performed in the commonwealth.

A lawsuit filed in September 2019 sparked the bill after three Virginia couples refused to declare their race while applying for marriage. The lawsuit resulted in Attorney General Herring declaring that couples applying for marriages would not be forced to disclose their race to the registrar.

“This is another Jim Crow law that should have been out of the books and I’m so grateful that the younger generation isn’t judging people based on color of skin,” said Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr., D-Chesapeake.

In October 2019, a federal judge struck down the race requirement as unconstitutional. Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. found that the law violated due process under the 14th Amendment. Alston said the law didn’t hold scrutiny against the U.S. Constitution.

“This new generation is much different,” Spruill said. “During my time, whites and blacks were thought of more differently.”

Other measures to repeal antiquated state laws were introduced during the 2020 General Assembly session. The General Assembly passed legislation that removes the crime of premarital sex, currently a Class 4 misdeameanor.

“We are looking at old laws created by an older white establishment and just removing those,” Spruill said. “It’s another step to say whites and blacks have the right to do what they want to do.”

Virginia is home to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia that overturned laws banning interracial marriage. In 1958, a judge sentenced Richard and Mildred Loving to a year in prison for marrying each other. He suspended the sentence for 25 years if the couple moved to the District of Columbia. After the Supreme Court of Virginia upheld their sentences, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned their convictions. The court found that the law violated equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment.

“This made both of us curious why questions like this were still on the application,” Christiansen said. “If people are of age, they should only need to identify them via Social Security number or something similar.”

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Richmond Then and Now

A then and now snapshot of Richmond.

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Original Image from Souvenir views: Negro enterprises & residences, Richmond, Va.
Created / Published[Richmond, D. A. Ferguson, 1907]

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Downtown

Stoney administration launches rent relief program for qualified immigrant families

The program is made possible by a $250,000 grant from the Open Society Foundations, a non-profit organization based in New York dedicated to providing assistance to groups excluded from federal assistance, such as non-citizens, mixed-status families and those with limited English proficiency working in domestic service jobs and other essential industries.

RVAHub Staff

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Today, the city launched a program to provide rent and mortgage assistance to non-citizen and mixed immigration status households in Richmond. This program is designed to support those Richmonders excluded from federal assistance due to their immigration status.

The program is made possible by a $250,000 grant from the Open Society Foundations, a non-profit organization based in New York dedicated to providing assistance to groups excluded from federal assistance, such as non-citizens, mixed-status families and those with limited English proficiency working in domestic service jobs and other essential industries.

To assist as many households as possible, funds per household will be limited to $1500 or up to two months of rent, whichever is less. This support program is intended to aid households who are having trouble paying rent due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicants who have not received any other cash assistance throughout the pandemic will be given priority.

Applicants will work with the bilingual staff of the city’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and Help1RVA to determine their eligibility for the program, apply for assistance, and complete the verification process.

“We are grateful for this grant, which will allow us to help bridge the gap for those individuals and families who usually are excluded from receiving government assistance and who play a crucial role in keeping our economy going,” said Karla Almendarez-Ramos, Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

The funds will be sent directly to the landlord or property manager. Applicants must provide proof of income and a valid lease or mortgage statement confirming the landlord-tenant relationship.

Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) of Virginia, the administrator of the city’s Eviction Diversion Program, will be in charge of making payments to landlords and property managers.

“HOME of VA is proud to partner with the City of Richmond as the fiscal agent to ensure access for vulnerable, underserved, and at-risk populations in the most integrated settings within the community,” said Monica Jefferson, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of HOME. “Housing assistance can make a significant difference in the economic well-being of low-income families and those facing complex housing barriers.”

“If there’s one lesson we should take away from this pandemic, it is that everyone, regardless of immigration status, deserves a place to feel safe and secure,” said Mayor Stoney of the program. “This targeted effort will support families often overlooked in the design and implementation of public support programs, and I am so thankful that so many were willing to come around the table and find a fix to this challenge.”

Interested parties can learn more here.

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James River Park System Update from Bryce Wilk, Superintendent

Through June 30, 2020: 1,076,873 James River Park has had visitors. The same date in 2019: 975,433 visitors. The current staff devoted to James River Park is 5.

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The James River Park is getting heavy use but that’s not all that’s going on in the park. Here’s what Bryce Wilk, Superintendent has to say.

  • The JRPS is seeing visitors at a higher rate than any other year ever! Through June 30, 2020: 1,076,873 visitors. Same date in 2019: 975,433 visitors. This despite all the restrictions in place during the stay at home orders due to Covid 19 this past spring and early summer. Close to a quarter million visitors in the month of June alone.
  • JRPS staff and local paddling groups installed new Dam Hazard Signs and Buoys between Huguenot Flatwater and Z-Dam to better warn people of the dangers of Z-Dam and the river.
  • JRPS hired parking attendants to ticket all illegally parked vehicles at Pony Pasture Rapids Park on weekends and holidays.
  • During the closure of public facilities, JRPS took the opportunity to upgrade the bathroom at Pony Pasture with new flooring and paint.
  • JRPS added parking lines in the parking lot to help guide and organize vehicle parking.
  • Currently we only have 5 full time staff members dedicated solely to the James River Park System, James River Park System relies on volunteers to keep this park beautiful.
  • JRPS is providing volunteer opportunities for river clean ups at Pony Pasture specifically through https://www.handsonrva.org/.
  • If people are interested in volunteering on their own or have any questions, Volunteer Coordinator, Matthew Mason can provide resources and equipment. His email is [email protected]
  • Please visit https://jamesriverpark.org/ and http://www.richmondgov.com/parks/ for the latest updates and safety information about the James River Park System and Richmond’s Parks, Recreation, and Community Facilities.

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