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.
Daniel G. Marshall for Petitioners.
Harold W. Kennedy, County Counsel (Los Angeles), and Charles C. Stanley, Jr., Deputy County Counsel,
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
 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.