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.Did I just read, in the year two thousand and nine A.D., a white man saying that he has "piles" of black friends who he generously allows to use his bathroom instead of sending them out in the backyard like a dog? And that's his defense that he's not racist?! For the love of Maude.
"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 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.Well, he's got a point there. I mean, last I checked, the furthest a biracial child could go in America was president.
Okay, in all seriousness, I don't want to ignore or minimize the reality that many bi- or multi-racial people face, uneasily straddling a sometimes-hostile border between two communities, or more. But here's the thing: What creates that tension isn't love and connection between two people of different races, but racism, which might rightly be described as an absence of love, an absence of connection.
In other words, Bardwell isn't fixing a problem by refusing to marry interracial couples; he's contributing to that problem. He's entrenching it.
And then there's this: It's none of his goddamned business. Lots of things can make childhood difficult, and it's neither the right nor the responsibility of a justice of the peace to decide which people should be granted marriage licenses on the basis of his personal assessments about their visible traits he arbitrarily associates with potential difficulties. He's also assuming that every couple will have children, which, suffice it to say, is a bad assumption.
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 complaint.Bardwell says he "didn't tell this couple they couldn't get married. I just told them I wouldn't do it."
..."It is really astonishing and disappointing to see this come up in 2009," said American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana attorney Katie Schwartzmann. "The Supreme Court ruled as far back as 1963 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 justice."
[H/Ts to Shakers P and MaryL.]