No Marriage License for Interracial Couple

By MARY FOSTER AP October 15, 2009

HAMMOND, La. (Oct. 15) – A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to
issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any
children the couple might have.

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

“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 asks everyone who calls about marriage if they are a mixed
race couple. If they are, he does not marry them, he said.

Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with
witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most
of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships,
and neither does white society, he said.

“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.”
If he did an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for
all, he said.

“I try to treat everyone equally,” he said.

Bardwell estimates that he has refused to marry about four couples during
his career, all in the past 2? years.

Beth Humphrey, 30, and 32-year-old Terence McKay, both of Hammond, say they
will consult the U.S. Justice Department about filing a discrimination
Humphrey, an account manager for a marketing firm, said she and McKay, a
welder, just returned to Louisiana. She is white and he is black. 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.”
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. Bardwell suggested
the couple go to another justice of the peace in the parish who agreed to
marry them.

“We are looking forward to having children,” Humphrey said. “And all our
friends and co-workers have been very supportive. Except for this, we’re
typical happy newlyweds.”

“It is really astonishing and disappointing to see this come up in 2009,”
said American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana attorney Katie
Schwartzmann. She said the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 “that the government
cannot tell people who they can and cannot marry.”

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

“He knew he was breaking the law, but continued to do it,” Schwartzmann

According to the clerk of court’s office, application for a marriage license
must be made three days before the ceremony because there is a 72-hour
waiting period. The applicants are asked if they have previously been
married. If so, they must show how the marriage ended, such as divorce.
Other than that, all they need is a birth certificate and Social Security

The license fee is $35, and the license must be signed by a Louisiana
minister, justice of the peace or judge. The original is returned to the
clerk’s office.
“I’ve been a justice of the peace for 34 years and I don’t think I’ve
mistreated anybody,” Bardwell said. “I’ve made some mistakes, but you have
too. I didn’t tell this couple they couldn’t get married. I just told them I
wouldn’t do it.”

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