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Mississippi Repeals Ban on Interracial Marriage By Slim Margin

November 5, 1987

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Mississippi showed that it hasn’t entirely divorced itself from a segregationist past by barely approving repeal of a ban on interracial marriage, some political observers say.

″Some people just couldn’t bring themselves to do it,″ said John Quincy Adams, political science professor at Millsaps College, a predominantly white private school in Jackson. ″People still have deep-seated feelings about interracial marriages.

″The old phrase probably kept coming up: ’Would you want your daughter to marry one?‴

The ban was struck down by federal courts years ago but remained in Mississippi’s 1890 constitution until the Legislature put it on Tuesday’s ballot for voters to repeal.

With 89 percent of the precincts reporting, 228,060 voters or 52 percent favored the repeal and 212,905 or 48 percent rejected it.

Officials in urban Hinds County reported that the amendment lost in several white precincts and drew more than 40 percent opposition in two majority-black precincts in west Jackson.

Nine other constitutional amendments on the ballot passed by overwhelming margins. They included letting judges deny bail to some criminal suspects to eliminating so-called anti-business language in the constitution.

The interracial marriage amendment appears to have drawn the most attention at the ballot box, though it sparked no public debate prior to the election.

″I think the vote reflects the traditional attitude here in Mississippi,″ said Leslie McLemore, dean of graduate studies at predominantly black Jackson State University.

″This was a motion to make the constitution jibe with the law of the land - the U.S. Constitution,″ he said. ″I was not really surprised at the close vote. My thinking going in was that it probably would fail.″

With little publicity on the amendments and the amount of reading involved to review them on the ballot, some voters may have been confused or didn’t notice them, Adams said.

″It was very complicated. Some people probably knew something about the amendment, but didn’t realize exactly which way they were voting,″ Adams said.

″Even though the clause is unconstitutional, such a personal thing as marriage strikes close to home,″ he added.

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