Beth Humphrey, 30, and Terence McKay, 32, both of Hammond, La. were in love and decided to get married. They went to Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell for the marriage license. He refused because Beth was white and Terence was black and he doesn't do mixed-race marriages.
He suggested that they get someone else to sign the marriage certificate....which they did. They are now happily married....no thanks to Keith Bardwell.
Before continuing any further, I am going to go ahead and call Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell from Hammond, in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana a racist. A racist who has no business being a Justice of the Peace, sworn to uphold the laws of the United States of America.
This issue was decided by the Supreme Court on June, 12, 1967 when it declared: "The Government cannot tell people who they can and cannot marry." See Loving vs Virginia and the story behind the ruling.“Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival,” wrote Chief Justice Warren. “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”
This has been the law of the land for over 40 years.
According to JP Keith Bardwell, he refused to issue a marriage license out of concern for the children of such a marriage and that it has been his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long. He refutes the notion that he is a racist.
"I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way," Keith Bardwell told AP. “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. "My main concern is for the children."
After having discussions with both blacks and whites, he said he has come to the conclusion that: "Most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society."
"I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves," Bardwell said. "In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer."
Beth Humphrey said she called Bardwell on Oct. 6 to inquire about getting a marriage license signed. She says Bardwell's wife told her that Bardwell will not sign marriage licenses for interracial couples.
According to the Census Bureau, Tangipahoa Parish is about 70 percent white and 30 percent black.
Humphrey says the case boils down to discrimination.The couple said they plan to consult the U.S. Justice Department about the matter.
Beth Humphrey is an account manager for a marketing firm. Terrence McKay is a welder and they had just returned to Louisiana. Humphrey says she plans to enroll in the University of New Orleans to pursue a masters degree in minority politics.
"That was one thing that made this so unbelievable," she said. "It's not something you expect in this day and age. We are looking forward to having children, and all our friends and co-workers have been very supportive. Except for this, we're typical happy newlyweds."
The ACLU sent a letter to the Louisiana Judiciary Committee, which oversees the state justices of the peace, asking them to investigate Bardwell and recommending "the most severe sanctions available, because such blatant bigotry poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the administration of justice."
"It is really astonishing and disappointing to see this come up in 2009," said American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana attorney Katie Schwartzmann. "He knew he was breaking the law, but continued to do it."
The NAACP branch of Tangipahoa Parish has also gotten involved. It has forwarded the case to the state and national levels of the civil rights group, calling for Keith Bardwell to resign because of his refusal to issue the marriage license.
“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,” said Patricia Morris, president of the NAACP branch of Tangipahoa Parish, located near the Mississippi line. “If he doesn’t do what his position calls for him to do, he should resign from that position.”
Keith Bardwell said that in the 34 years he has been a justice of the peace he has never married couples of different races.
“I do not, do not, do mixed-race marriages,” he said. “I always guide them to another justice of the peace. They can go other places and get married. A justice of the peace does not have to marry anybody,” Bardwell said.
In my opinion.... No one should have to put up with the racist attitudes of a bigot masquerading under the pretense that he cares what happens to the children of mixed-race parents. It is none of his business. No one asked for his opinion much less his permission to get married. If he can't do his job without interjecting his personal biases then he should not be a Justice of the Peace. He should resign or be removed from office.....in my opinion.