Thursday, October 15, 2009

Courageous Louisiana Justice Of The Peace Keith Bardwell Refuses To Issue Marriage License To Interracial Couple In Louisiana

A Louisiana justice of the peace showing the courage of his convictions has refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have. Primary media story from the Hammond (LA) Daily Star; additional stories from KSL Channel 5 and WDSU Channel 6. Discussion on the Vanguard News Network Forum, the Phora, and Stormfront.

Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish who is a resident of Ponchatoula, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long. "I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else."

This appears to be standard operating procedure for Bardwell. He said he asks everyone who calls about marriage if they are a mixed race couple. If they are, he does not marry them. Bardwell estimates that he has refused to marry about four couples during his 34-year career, all in the past 2 1/2 years. Bardwell said from his experience, “99 percent of the time” the interracial couple consists of a black man and white woman.

Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society. "There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," Bardwell said. "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it." But Bardwell didn't just leave the interracial couple hanging; he suggested they see Justice of the Peace Terri Crosby of Tickfaw, who agreed to sign the license.

Nevertheless, the Hammond interracaial couple, 30-year-old Beth Humphrey, who is white, and 32-year-old Terence McKay, who is black, say they will consult the U.S. Justice Department about filing a discrimination complaint. In 1963, in the case of Loving vs. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot prohibit marriages simply because of the race of the spouses.

Bardwell considers his action legally defensible. He said a justice of the peace is not required to conduct a marriage ceremony and is at liberty to recuse himself from a marriage or anything else. But he did admit that the state attorney general told him years ago that he would eventually get into trouble for not performing interracial marriages. “I told him if I do, I’ll resign,” Bardwell said. “I have rights too. I’m not obligated to do that just because I’m a justice of the peace.” His current term expires December 31st, 2014.

But the real question might be whether Bardwell even makes it to December 31st, 2009. Already the vultures are gathering. Louisiana ACLU Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman said Bardwell’s refusal to sign the license is both tragic and illegal, while ACLU attorney Katie Schwartzmann said the ACLU was preparing a letter for the Louisiana Supreme Court, which oversees the state justices of the peace, asking them to investigate Bardwell and see if they can remove him from office. In addition, Pat Morris, NAACP Tangipahoa Parish chapter president, said she was shocked to hear that the choice of a spouse is still an issue in Tangipahoa Parish.

The prognosis for Bardwell's JP career is poor. The state of Louisiana will undoubtedly feel compelled to take some sort of action simply because they know that the Feds will be looking over their shoulder waiting to pounce. Nevertheless, I salute Bardwell for upholding the courage of his convictions, and hope he won't be forced to grovel and apologize in public.

1 comment:

Harry L. Hughes III said...

My hat's off to Bardwell. If a storekeeper can reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, a JP should be able to do the same thing.

Instead of crying about it, the race muxers should simply go elsewhere.