Editor’s Note: Updated Nov. 23 at 12 p.m. to include statement from Montgomery County branch of the NAACP
Antiquated decisions that prohibited interracial marriage and allowed “separate, but equal” facilities are finally off the books in Maryland, after Attorney General Brian Frosh overruled them Monday.
Frosh issued a 13-page opinion to General Assembly leaders Monday, explaining the overruling. The formal ruling reverses opinions from the attorney general’s office that upheld or applied racially discriminatory state laws. Some of the opinions date back as far as 1916.
“In years past the Office of the Attorney General issued opinions that upheld racially discriminatory laws in our state,” Frosh said in a statement. “The laws were abhorrent and ultimately held to be unconstitutional. We hope that our opinion today will help remove the stain of those earlier, harmful and erroneous works. We will continue to fight to stamp out racism and hate in all of our work for Maryland.”
According to the ruling, the Office of the Attorney General conducted a review in early 2022 of the validity of prior official opinions of the Attorney General that upheld or applied racially discriminatory Maryland laws that were later found to be unconstitutional.
The inquiry was inspired by a recent opinion of the former Virginia Attorney General, Mark R. Herring, who analyzed whether prior opinions in Virginia that “relied upon — or promoted —racially discriminatory laws” were still in effect.
Frosh, a Democrat, is stepping down in January after two terms.
Del. Al Carr (Democrat – Dist.18, Montgomery County) said it’s important to revisit these rulings, even if national or state law overrides them.
“The rescinding of these old letters or advice that doesn’t carry the force of law, but it’s a symbolic gesture. And I think it’s healthy,” Carr said. “I think it is a way of looking back and seeing where we’ve been, how far we’ve come.”
Carr said Frosh’s ruling is personally meaningful to him as he is in an interracial marriage.
“This is a change that happened during my lifetime,” Carr said of Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court case that made interracial marriage the law of the land.
The Montgomery County branch of the NAACP applauded the decision in a statement to Bethesda Beat Wednesday morning.
“We appreciate the attorney general’s recognition of the harmful effects of these past opinions and welcome his efforts to assure that the historical record is corrected to reflect the current law and policies of this state. Attorney General Frosh has spent his career pursuing justice and equity. This action, in his final days in office, is a suitable way to set the record straight and pave the way for Maryland’s future.”