Louisiana justice under fire for refusing interracial marriage
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) — Civil rights advocates in eastern Louisiana are calling for a justice of the peace of Tangipahoa Parish to resign after he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple.
“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 call for him to do, he should resign from that position.”
The demands for Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace for Tangipahoa Parish’s 8th Ward, to step down came after he wouldn’t issue a marriage license to Beth Humphrey, 30, and her boyfriend, Terence McKay, 32, both of Hammond.
Bardwell and the couple didn’t immediately return calls from CNN Thursday. However, Bardwell told the Hammond’s Daily Star that he was concerned for the children who may be born of the relationship and that, in his experience, most interracial marriages don’t last.
“I’m not a racist,” Bardwell told the newspaper. “I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children.” Bardwell, stressing he couldn’t personally endorse the marriage, referred the couple to another justice of the peace.
The bride says the case boils down to discrimination. Humphrey told the Daily Star that she called Bardwell on October 6 to ask about getting a marriage license, and was asked by his wife if it would be an interracial marriages. Humphrey said she was told that Bardwell does not sign off on interracial marriages.
“I don’t understand this because he is an elected official and discrimination is against the law,” Humphrey told the newspaper.
Morris told CNN that her NAACP chapter has forwarded the case to the state and national levels of the civil rights group. According to the Census Bureau, Tangipahoa Parish is about 70 percent white and 30 percent black.
As most of you know, I have a dog in this fight. I've been with my (black) husband for almost 16 years. We have two of those children that Mr. Bardwell is so concerned about - both honor students, athletic, musical, artistic and all-around good people.
It's easy to say "I'm not a racist - I'm just concerned about the kids", and that's exactly what a lot of people do. I had it happen to me when I was pregnant. God forbid a white person and a black person should have kids - it's so unfair. I mean, what could a child like that possibly grow up to be? PRESIDENT?
On this date: In 1976, the song Disco Duck topped the charts.