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Louisiana Justice of the Peace Quits After Interracial Wedding Incident

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E. Keith Bardwell

AP/Melinda Deslatte—A Louisiana justice of the peace who refused to marry a couple because the bride was white and groom was black resigned Tuesday.

Keith Bardwell, who is white, quit the post with a one-sentence statement to Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne and no explanation of his decision: “I do hereby resign the office of Justice of the Peace for the Eighth Ward of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, effective November 3, 2009.”

Bardwell refused to perform the ceremony for Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay because they are of different races.

When questioned about his refusal, Bardwell acknowledged he routinely recuses himself from marrying interracial couples because he believes such marriages cause harm to the couples’ children. In interviews, he said he refers such couples to other justices of the peace, who then perform the ceremony, which happened in this case.

mckaycouplenterracial

Newlyweds Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay

Humphrey has said she and McKay received their marriage license from the parish clerk of court, where they also received a list of people qualified to perform the ceremony. When she called Bardwell’s office to ask about the ceremony on Oct. 6, Humphrey said Bardwell’s wife told her that the justice wouldn’t sign their marriage license because they were a “mixed couple.”

Humphrey and McKay have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Bardwell.

More @ Associated Press

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Some Unanswered Questions on the Justice of the Peace Who Refuses to Wed Interracial Couples Story

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Some Unanswered Questions on the Justice of the Peace Who Refuses to Wed Interracial Couples Story

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Mildred and Richard Loving

Mildred and Richard Loving

It’s ironic that last Wednesday Louisiana was visited by the President of the United States, who just happens to be a biracial child of a interracial marriage. It was also the day that the story broke about the Louisianan Justice of the Peace who refused to marry a interracial couple. We all thought that in 1967, in the case Loving vs. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot prohibit marriages simply because of the race of the spouses. But E. Keith Bardwell has other ideas.

One of the things the National media has not picked up on yet… In the past, Bardwell has always campaigned as a Democratic Justice of the Peace (1996, 2002, 2008). His ward is in a historically Democratic area. As of 12/31/2008 Bardwell switched parties and is now listed as a Republican. We would like to know what prompted this abrupt change in political parties? What happened that would make a long time Democrat in a Democratic district change party affiliations?

Another thing the National media has not picked up on yet… Due to some great investigative journalism by local reporter Don Ellzey of the Hammond Daily Star, we know that:

Bardwell said 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.”

The 44 Diaries has contacted the Louisiana State’s Attorney’s office to get further clarification. We contacted Jennifer Roche, the Public Information Officer for the Louisiana Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell. We specifically asked if the LSA office had any official statement on this incident. We also asked if the LSA office had any comment on Bardwell’s claim that a “State Attorney General told him years ago that he would eventually get into trouble for not performing interracial marriages.” If a previous AG knew he was doing something illegal, then why was he allowed to run for and serve as justice of the peace all these years? We contacted the office Friday afternoon by both phone and email, and have not recieved a reply yet. We will gladly provide an update once those questions have been answered.

Newlyweds Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay

Newlyweds Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay

CNN/AP—A justice of the peace in Louisiana who has drawn widespread criticism for refusing to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple says he has no regrets about his decision.

It’s kind of hard to apologize for something that you really and truly feel down in your heart you haven’t done wrong,” Keith Bardwell told CNN affiliate WAFB on Saturday.

Bardwell, a justice of the peace for Tangipahoa Parish’s 8th Ward, refused to issue a marriage license to Beth Humphrey, 30, and her then boyfriend, Terence McKay, 32, both of Hammond.

Gov. Bobby Jindal

Gov. Bobby Jindal

Bardwell’s actions have elicited reactions from some top officials, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who called for Bardwell’s dismissal.

This is a clear violation of constitutional rights and federal and state law. … disciplinary action should be taken immediately — including the revoking of his license,” the Republican governor said Friday.

AP—Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.

E. Keith Bardwell

E. Keith Bardwell

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.”

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.”

AP—Bardwell has said he always asks if a couple is interracial and, if they are, refers them to another justice of the peace. Bardwell said no one had complained in the past and he doesn’t marry the couples because he’s worried about their children’s futures.

William P. Quigley

William P. Quigley

Perhaps he’s worried the kids will grow up and be president,” said Bill Quigley, director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Justice, referring to President Barack Obama, the son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas.

Obama’s deputy press secretary Bill Burton echoed those sentiments.

I’ve found that actually the children of biracial couples can do pretty good,” Burton told reporters aboard Air Force One as it flew to Texas.

Bardwell maintains he can recuse himself from marrying people. Quigley disagreed.

A justice of the peace is legally obligated to serve the public, all of the public,” Quigley said. “Racial discrimination has been a violation of Louisiana and U.S. law for decades. No public official has the right to pick and choose which laws they are going to follow.”

A spokeswoman for the Louisiana Judiciary Commission said investigations were confidential and would not comment. If the commission recommends action to the Louisiana Supreme Court, the matter would become public.

U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA)

U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA)

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said in a statement Bardwell’s practices and comments were deeply disturbing.

Not only does his decision directly contradict Supreme Court rulings, it is an example of the ugly bigotry that divided our country for too long,” she said.

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Gordon Burgess, Tangipahoa Parish President

Gordon Burgess, Tangipahoa Parish President

Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess said Bardwell’s views were not consistent with his or those of the local government. But as an elected official, Bardwell was not under the supervision of the parish government.

However, I am certainly very disappointed that anyone representing the people of Tangipahoa Parish, particularly an elected official, would take such a divisive stand,” Burgess said in an e-mail. “I would hope that Mr. Bardwell would consider offering his resignation if he is unable to serve all of the people of his district and our parish.”

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