Last week, Louisiana couple Beth and Terence McKay revealed that justice of the peace Keith Bardwell had recently refused to give them a marriage license because they are an interracial couple. “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.” Today on CNN, the McKays responded to Bardwell:
TERENCE McKAY: He says the only reason he doesn’t marry interracial couple is dealing with — because of the offspring of the marriages. If it wasn’t for interracial couples today, we wouldn’t have our president. So, for him to take that outlook, that’s still 1800s or something.
Bartlett explained that he had seen “countless” interracial couples where the children were rejected by family members, and he didn’t want to see that happen again. He defended himself by pointing out that he did not prevent the couple from getting married; he merely would not do it himself. Asked if he would refuse to perform a marriage for any other reason, he said no, but then corrected himself.
“One of them is intoxicated or seems to be or on drugs or whatever, yeah, I can recuse myself and make them come back when they’re in a sober state,” he added.
At the end of the segment, Bartlett asked to say one more thing.
“I’m sorry that I offended the couple, but I did help them and tell them who to go to,” he said. “And they went and got married, and they should be happily married and I don’t see what the problem is now.”
HAMMOND, La. — 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.
Neither Bardwell nor the couple immediately returned phone calls from The Associated Press. But Bardwell told the Daily Star of Hammond that he was not a racist.
“I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house,” Bardwell said. “My main concern is for the children.”
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.
Embedded video from <a href=”http://www.cnn.com/video” mce_href=”http://www.cnn.com/video”>CNN Video</a> “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.”
If he does an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said.
“I try to treat everyone equally,” he said.
Thirty-year-old Beth Humphrey and 32-year-old Terence McKay, both of Hammond, say they will consult the U.S. Justice Department about filing a discrimination complaint.
Humphrey told the newspaper 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.
“It is really astonishing and disappointing to see this come up in 2009,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana attorney Katie Schwartzman. “The Supreme Court ruled as far back as 1963 that the government cannot tell people who they can and cannot marry.”
The ACLU was preparing a letter for the Louisiana Supreme Court, which oversees the state justices of the peace, asking them to investigate Bardwell and see if they can remove him from office, Schwartzman said.
“He knew he was breaking the law, but continued to do it,” Schwartzman said.
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.