How Voting Has Changed the Laws of Marriage

How Voting Has Changed the Laws of Marriage
November 02, 2020

Love & Marriage in the U.S.

In the United States, marriage laws have changed considerably over time, including the reasonably recent removal of bans on interracial and same-sex marriage. The good news is that 9 out of 10 Americans still feel love is the most important reason to get married.

Initially, the American colonies formed common-law marriages in massive defiance of the English church's canon laws. Common law allowed a marriage to be an informal celebration with nothing but love and a verbal agreement of both parties. Ironically, the government did not formally recognize marriage laws until 1913. It passed the Revenue Act of 1913, establishing tax rates for married couples.

Who Runs the World?

In 1900, the government granted married women the right to own property in their name. Twenty years later, with the Nineteenth Amendment passage, women were guaranteed the right to vote in all U.S. States. Even though the same voting restrictions applied to poor and non-white men applied to poor and non-white women, women began creating change.

"Marriage is not simply a romantic union between two people; it's also a political and economic contract of the highest order." 

— Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Forty Years

In the following forty years, Native Americans and Chinese immigrants were granted citizenship and the right to vote. This was followed by "One Man, One Vote" and ultimately The Voting Rights Act of 1965. It's not lost on many people that the long slow process for women to own property and vote led to a more rapid movement toward people of color's voting rights, regardless of wealth or land ownership, which had stood in the path of many in the past.

Creating Change

In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned laws that prohibited interracial couples from marrying. In the years that followed, some state's constitutions still banned interracial marriage. Alabama was the last to remove the ban on interracial marriage in its state constitution; 60% of voters endorsed a ballot initiative. Today, 1 in 6 or about 17% of newlyweds were married to someone of different ethnicity, showing a steady increase since 1967 when that number was just 3%.

In 1971, the legal voting age was changed from 21 to 18, mainly due to the Vietnam War and the challenge that if you were old enough to fight, you were old enough to vote. Today, in a study by the Pew Research Institute, Millennials and Gen Z lead the change in America's thoughts on same-sex marriage. In a recent survey, nearly 84% of this demographic responded that same-sex marriage is "a good thing" or "it doesn't make a difference." In 2007, 54% of Americans were opposed to legalizing same-sex marriage. In 2017 the number flipped to 62% being in favor.

What Does This All Mean?

For most of us, the change in women's rights, voting rights, equality, and marriage have moved painstakingly slowly. Some might say that we've gone nowhere in the last 50 years. We're lightyears away from where we need to be in so many areas regarding woman's rights, racial equality, and marriage equality. Truthfully, we, as a people, have made more strides in these areas in the last 100 years than in the history of the world. But, working together, the best is yet to come! Trust in women's power to create change, love your neighbors, and have faith in our next generation.


Hero photo courtesy: MOM's Organic Market


About the Author

Aisle Planner Editorial Team
Aisle Planner Editorial Team
The Aisle Planner Editorial Team is a collective of creative writers, editors, and former event pros who obsess over weddings and special events—and the businesses behind them! Drawn to refined details, design, and creativity, our team provides intelligent and straightforward articles with insights, practical tips, and expert guidance in putting Aisle Planner's "Power of One" behind your business.