The Unquestioned Power of the State

While researching Kentucky case law for an article I'm writing, I stumbled upon this legal gem from yesteryear, the sinister luster of which has not yet been totally lost. Similar arguments are still made by the various states - including Kentucky - opposed to same-sex marriage. Overt racism has been abandoned, but the appeals to state political discretion and the importance of procreation remain:

The question is, is it a fair exercise of the police power to prohibit the teaching of the white and negro races together? Is it a fair exercise of the power to restrain the two races from voluntarily associating together in a private school, to acquire a scholastic education? The mingling of the blood of the white and negro races by interbreeding is deemed by the political department of our State government as being hurtful to the welfare of society. Marriage by members of the one race with those of the other is prohibited by statute. Sections 2097, 2098, 2111, 2114, Ky. St. 1903. It is admitted freely in argument that the subject of marriage is one of the very first importance to society; that it may be regulated by law even as among members of the same race. Inbreeding is known to lower the mental and physical vigor of the offspring. So incestuous marriages are prohibited. Others not incestuous, but involving the probable effect upon the vitality of the offspring, are prohibited also, as marriages by idiots. Still other inhibitions, such as age, and so forth, are imposed, all of which look to the well-being of the future generations. No one questions the validity of such statutes, enacted as they confessedly are, under the police power of the State. Upon the same considerations this same power has been exercised to prohibit the intermarriage of the two races. The result of such marriage would be to destroy the purity of blood and identity of each. It would detract from whatever characteristic force pertained to either.

Berea College v. Commonwealth, 123 Ky. 209, 218-219 (Ky. 1906).

This case, which would now be considered a highly conservative opinion (both in its racism and in its reliance upon federalist principles), includes this passage, which seems not at all consistent with our contemporary conceptions of certain conservative ideologies:

Individual liberty of action or right must give away to the greater right of the collective people in the assertion of a well defined policy, designed and intended for the general welfare.

Id. at 211.

The well-defined policy designed and intended for the general welfare at issue, of course, was racial segregation.

One more heinous quote for the road:

The separation of the white and black races upon the surface of the globe is a fact equally apparent. Why this is so, it is not necessary to speculate; but the fact of a distribution of men by race and color is as visible in the providential arrangement of the earth as that of heat and cold. The natural separation of the races is therefore an undeniable fact, and all social organizations which lead to their amalgamation are repugnant to the law of nature.

Id. at 225.