Shortly after the Civil War, a series of cases argued that the Civil Rights Act of 1866 gave black Americans the right to make contracts, including a marriage contract, with whomever they chose. While the cases were almost uniformly unsuccessful at that time, this paper argues that claims based on private contracts replicating some of marriage’s benefits, stripped of the social and religious freight of marriage, are more compelling. State constitutional amendments banning not only marriage, but any legal recognition of a marriage-like relationship, demonstrate that animus underlies the prohibitions and that the amendments violate the Equal Protection Clause even under rational basis review.
Dara Purvis, The Right to Contract: Use of Domestic Partnership as a Strategic Alternative to the Right to Marry Same-Sex Partners, 28 Women's Rts. L. Rep. 145 (2007).