Interracial couple denied marriage license in Louisiana

Sandy Smith's picture

Civil rights and civil liberties groups are calling for a Louisiana justice of the peace to resign after he refused to sign a marriage license for an interracial couple in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana.

Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace for the eighth ward of Tangipahoa Parish, declined to issue a license to Beth Humphrey, 30, and her boyfriend Terence McKay, 32, both of Hammond. Bardwell justified his decicion on the grounds of concern for the welfare of their children. Humphrey is white, McKay black.

Bardwell was quoted in news reports as saying that neither blacks nor whites truly accept the offspring of interracial marriages, and that such marriages usually do not last long.

He also denied he was acting out of bigotry: "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." Bardwell said he formed his opinions from talking to many blacks and whites over the years.

Bardwell recommended the couple obtain a license from another justice of the peace in the parish who is willing to marry the couple. The couple received their license on Oct. 9.

Patricia Morris, head of the local branch of the NAACP, has called on Bardwell to resign and referred the incident to the group's state and national branches. She told CNN, "He's an elected public official and one of his duties is to marry people. He doesn't have the right to say he doesn't believe in it."

The American Civil Liberties Union's Louisiana chapter has requested that the State Judiciary Committee investigate and apply "the most severe sanctions available" to Bardwell, arguing that he knowingly and blatantly violated the law.

By Sandy Smith

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