Perez v Sharp -...

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Perez v. Sharp , 32 Cal.2d 711 [L. A. No. 20305. In Bank. Oct. 1, 1948.]  ANDREA D. PEREZ et al., Petitioners, v. W. G. SHARP, as County Clerk, etc., Respondent.  COUNSEL  Daniel G. Marshall for Petitioners.  Harold W. Kennedy, County Counsel (Los Angeles), and Charles C. Stanley, Jr., Deputy County Counsel,  for Respondent.  OPINION  TRAYNOR, J.  In this proceeding in mandamus, petitioners seek to compel the County Clerk of Los Angeles County to  issue them a certificate of registry (Civ. Code, § 69a) and a license to marry. (Civ. Code, § 69.) In the  application for a license, petitioner Andrea Perez states that she is a white person and petitioner Sylvester  Davis that he is a Negro. Respondent refuses to issue the certificate and license, invoking Civil Code,  section 69, which provides: "... no license may be issued authorizing the marriage of a white person with a  Negro, mulatto, Mongolian or member of the Malay race."  Civil Code, section 69, implements Civil Code, section 60, which provides: "All marriages of white persons  with negroes, Mongolians, members of the Malay race, or mulattoes are illegal and void." This section  originally appeared in the Civil Code in 1872, but at that time it prohibited marriages only between white  persons and Negroes or mulattoes. It  [32 Cal.2d 713]  succeeded a statute prohibiting such marriages and  authorizing the imposition of certain criminal penalties upon persons contracting or solemnizing them. (Stats.  1850, ch. 140, p. 424.) Since 1872, Civil Code, section 60, has been twice amended, first to prohibit  marriages between white persons and Mongolians (Stats. 1901, p. 335) and subsequently to prohibit  marriages between white persons and members of the Malay race. (Stats. 1933, p. 561.)  Petitioners contend that the statutes in question are unconstitutional on the grounds that they prohibit the  free exercise of their religion and deny to them the right to participate fully in the sacraments of that religion.  They are members of the Roman Catholic Church. They maintain that since the church has no rule  forbidding marriages between Negroes and Caucasians, they are entitled to receive the sacrament of  matrimony.  [1] The provision of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States that Congress shall make  no law "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" is encompassed in  the concept of liberty in the Fourteenth Amendment. State legislatures are therefore no more competent  than Congress to enact such a law. (Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 303 [60 S.Ct. 900, 84 L.Ed.  1213, 128 A.L.R. 1352].) They may, however, regulate conduct for the protection of society, and insofar as 
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