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Alabama constitution still prohibits interracial marriage, integrated schools; committee to begin revisions

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 11:09 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Leaders are taking a big step forward this week in revising the Alabama State Constitution.

Alabama's six constitutions will be on display at the Alabama Department of Archives and...
Alabama's six constitutions will be on display at the Alabama Department of Archives and History through Dec. 31 as part of the state's bicentennial celebrations.(Source: WSFA 12 News)

Governor Ivey just gave the final approval to allow a committee to sit down and come up with a revised document.

There’s a lot of language in the state constitution from 1901, specifically discriminating against people of color.

Our schools have been integrated for decades, people are free to marry whoever they choose. But that’s not what our state’s constitution still has written it.

“The Legislature shall never pass any law to authorize or legalize any marriage between any white person and a negro, or descendant of a negro.”

That is word for word from Article IV of the Alabama State Constitution.

So is this: “Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race.”

“We want to make sure that in 2021, in the 21st century, that who we are today as a state is reflective in the document that actually governs us,” Merika Coleman, District 57 State Representative said.

The Alabama Citizens for Constitution Reform has been working for over 20 years to change that.

In 2019, the State Legislature passed a bill, putting the constitutional amendment on the ballot for voters. In November of 2020, 66% of Alabamians agreed it’s time to make some changes.

“Alabamians overwhelmingly supporting recompiling this document, it is a message to the rest of the country that that’s not who we are anymore,” Coleman said.

Coleman will serve on a committee of 10 people responsible for eliminating racist language from the constitution.

But that’s all that can be revised.

“Only touching on those words and not the other words in the education article or any of the other articles,” Nancy Ekberg, a board member of the Alabama Citizens for Constitution Reform said.

Coleman says all the lawmakers who voted on her bill in 2019 voted yes to the change.

“This was a unanimous vote both in the House and the Senate. Democrats, Republicans, African Americans, white people. it means that we’re moving in the right direction,” Coleman said.

But after all of that, this isn’t a done deal. You, the voter will have to vote again, this time approving the revisions in 2022.

“it will be up to the voters to vote, if we have done what we said we’re going to do,” Coleman said.

The committee will begin meeting in July.

In 2022, the legislature will vote on the revisions.

And then in November of that year, voters can expect to see it on the ballot.

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