The Justice of the Peace Who Breaks the Law

I first read this story in the Boston Globe yesterday and was struck speechless with astonishment.  According to the AP story

 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.

Which part of the story is most racist?  The refusal to marry interracial couples or the fact that he thinks he isn’t a racist because he lets black people use his bathroom – and is proud of both.  Bardwell is convinced that interracial marriages don’t last and they hurt the kids.

In 2007, MSNBC ran a story about interracial marriage that disproves most of what Bardwell believes. 

The charisma king of the 2008 presidential field. The world’s best golfer. The captain of the New York Yankees. Besides superstardom, Barack Obama, Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter have another common bond: Each is the child of an interracial marriage.For most of U.S. history, in most communities, such unions were taboo.

It was only 40 years ago — on June 12, 1967 — that the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down a Virginia statute barring whites from marrying nonwhites. The decision also overturned similar bans in 15 other states.

That case was Loving v. Virginia.  The couple in question had grown up in a small rural community in Virginia where the black and white children often associated with each other and were friends.  The Lovings had known each other since childhood. And despite all the frustrations and obstacles, their marriage lasted through their lifetimes.

Factoring in all racial combinations, Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld calculates that more than 7 percent of America’s 59 million married couples in 2005 were interracial, compared to less than 2 percent in 1970.Coupled with a steady flow of immigrants from all parts of the world, the surge of interracial marriages and multiracial children is producing a 21st century America more diverse than ever, with the potential to become less stratified by race.

Interracial marriage is not always an easy path.  My grandmothers both recognized that it was unlikely that either of their granddaughters would marry other Japanese  Americans and they were right.  Others of their generation went to great lengths to get their daughters to “marry in the race”, often without success.  One family I knew as a child moved from Philadelphia to California where there were more Japanese American men for their daughter to meet; she married a white sailor she met in San Diego.

What Justice of the Peace Bardwell does is not only unconstitutional, but according to Louisiana laws he is required to any couple who meets the requirements.

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 card
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.

He claims to have denied only a few couples and when he does so refers them to another Justice of the Peace.  This is supposed to make it all right.

The couple who were denied, Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay, intend to file a discrimination complaint.  May they prevail and have a long and happy marriage.  May Justice of the Peace Bardwell retire very  soon.