Louisiana judge denies marriage license to interracial couple
Almost forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting blacks and whites from marrying was unconstitutional, a lower court in Louisiana thinks otherwise.
In October, 2009, Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple. He expressed concern over any children they might have. “I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell told the Associated Press. He further commented that it was his experience that most interracial marriages didn’t last long.
In 1958, 19-year-old Mildred Jeter, a black lady, married 26-year-old Richard Loving, who was white, in the District of Columbia. They returned home to Virginia where they were arrested for violating the state’s anti-miscegenation law against interracial marriages. They plead guilty and were sentenced to one year in jail. The sentence was suspended for 25 years on the condition they left the state of Virginia. They returned to D.C. and began their challenge of the court’s decision.
In 1967, in a unanimous 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court stated that Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man fundamental to our very existence and survival. . . .Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.” [Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 87 S.Ct. 1817 (1967)]
Beth Humphrey (30) and Terence McKay (32) obtained a license from another judge and married. Justice of the Peace Bardwell is under investigation by the state’s Judicial Commission. Many are calling for his removal from the bench.
Are you surprised that a judge in 2009 takes this position? Aren’t judges sworn to uphold the law, including the state and Federal Constitutions? Should personal beliefs be a factor in judicial decision-making?
Update: Without comment or explanation, Justice of the Peace Bardwell resigned his position on November 3, 2009.
In February, 2012, a study from the Pew Research Center reported a rise in interracial marriage in the U.S. A record 1 in 12 marriages, almost 5 million, were reported between Black, Asian, Hispanic and White couples. More than 15% of new marriages in 2010 were interracial. Cornell University sociology professor Daniel Lichter commented that “Mixed-race children have blurred America’s color line. They often interact with others on either side of the racial divide and frequently serve as brokers between friends and family members of different racial backgrounds.”