A justice of the peace in Louisiana is facing disciplinary action after he refused to marry a mixed-race couple on the grounds that it would not be fair to any children they might have.
Keith Bardwell, a JP for 34 years in Tangipahoa parish in south-western Louisiana, last week turned away Beth Humphrey, 30, who is white and Terence McKay, 32, who is black. It was the fourth interracial couple for whom he had declined to issue a marriage licence.
Bardwell, who is white, insisted he was not a racist and that his decision had been governed by his concern that mixed-race children were shunned by both white and black communities. He told the Hammond Star: “I don’t do interracial marriages because I don’t want to put children in a situation they didn’t bring on themselves. In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer.”
He protested to Associated Press that “I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way. 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.”
Bardwell’s actions are particularly sensitive in Louisiana, one of 17 mainly southern states that only repealed laws banning mixed-race marriages and relationships when they were forced to do so by the US supreme court in the case of Loving v Virginia in June 1967. Until then “miscegenation” as it was legally called was outlawed in many states, and was one of the most invasive elements of southern segregation.
In 1883 the supreme court ruled that states were within their rights to ban mixed marriages, finding that this did not breach the constitutional requirement to treat everybody impartially as whites and blacks were punished in equal measure for breaking the miscegenation laws. That ruling stood until the 1967 Loving case.
Humphrey, who left the US military last year, said she was appalled by what had happened. “I simply can’t believe he can do that. That’s blatant discrimination.”
The local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union has written to state judicial authorities asking for an investigation, recommending that Bardwell receives the “most severe sanctions available”.
Damn… Thought we had moved on past this one…