"I'm the product of a mixed marriage that would have been illegal in 12 states when I was born," he told TheAdvocate.com.
Obama made the remark during a wide-ranging interview about issues affecting the gay, bisexual and transgender community with a Web site for gay and lesbian readers. Obama said his perspective about rights for same-sex couples is shaped by the broader political and historical context of his upbringing.
Such laws were more widepsread than Obama realizes. At the time of his birth Aug. 4, 1961, 22 states banned interracial marriages, not 12.
(For those counting: Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.)
But it was never an issue for his white American mother and black Kenyan father, who lived in Hawaii. The island state is one of only nine that never declared these marriages illegal.
At one time or another, laws against miscegenation were active in close to 40 states. In 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared the bans unconstitutional in the landmark Loving vs. Virginia ruling, 16 states were still enforcing them, said Peter Wallenstein, a Virginia Tech history professor and pre-eminent scholar on the subject.
Wallenstein said that although his number is off, Obama's point is still striking a chord with younger supporters who "can't imagine there was ever a time" when mixed marriages were illegal.
We can't give Obama a straight-up true because his number is way off, but his larger point, that many states prohibited interracial marriage in the early 1960s, is correct.