whites wedding?

Keith Bardwell Won’t Marry Interracial Couples. Should He Be Forced To?

What’s surprising about Louisiana justice of the peace Keith Bardwell isn’t that he denied to marry an interracial couple because he feared for the welfare of their mixed children, but that it took this long for anyone to report it. Sure, you might describe much of Louisiana as “backwoods” where the races still self-segregate (that happens everywhere!), but Bardwell has rebuffed the marriages of an estimated four interracial couples over the last two-and-a-half years. He says that when couples ask him to marry them, he asks them whether they’re of the same race, and makes his decision from there.

Beth Humphrey, who is white, and her would-be husband Terence McKay, who is black, are considering filing a discrimination complaint with the Justice Department.

Which is their right. But haven’t we gays said that, when we get our marriage rights, we won’t be forcing anyone — religious institution or otherwise — to marry us? It’s one thing to ensure county clerks follow the law and issue marriage licenses, but does that demand extend to the people who actually officiate the ceremonies? The Louisiana ACLU thinks so: They’ve just asked the Louisiana Judiciary Committee to investigate Bardwell.

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  • Cam

    Any complacent liberals who thought that the far right would be content with just banning gay marriage should wake up. This is the next step if they feel that they have a victory. I’m sure if they tried to push this America would wake up and start screaming, but the fact that the Dems have stayed quiet as they attack gay marraige probably makes them think that they can push further.

  • dellisonly

    SHOULD HE be froced? Yes he should. His job is to issue the license to everyone who qualifies. Being a JP has nothing to do with conviction or morals.

  • USCG2006

    Not only should he be forced to preform the marriages (or resign his commission) but he should be investigated and charged with violating the Civil Rights Act.

  • tarxien

    He should not be forced because marriage should be a happy occasion for the people getting married and should not be spoiled by a bigot doing it under pressure.
    However if he refuses to perform his duties as in his work contract he should be sacked – no question.

    There was a case in the UK a year or so ago where the registrar refused to perform same-sex marriages on religious grounds. She was sacked, appealed and temporarily won the case and was reinstated. Her employers then appealed against this judgement and won the case.

  • Barry

    The fact is that the guy has had 40 years to get used to the idea of legal miscegenation. Once the laws are passed you give a little time for the socially backwards people to catch up with the times, but this is just ridiculous! Gay marriage will probably take less time in the long run to be accepted once it’s universally legal only because society moves faster in general than it did in 1967. The people that hate it hated mixed race marriage just as much and felt it was just as fundamentally wrong for worryingly similar reasons. This guy has no excuse for denying a couple something that is both legal AND generally accepted in society. Our president is biracial, so what terrible fate exactly does he think will befall these ‘poor’ children? He’s just covering up his own deep-seated fear of black men having sex with white women, simple as that. It may even be subconscious, but it’s a stupid inferiority complex based on very old racist propaganda. I’m sure he denies white man/black woman pairings as well just to be ‘fair’, but it’s just a cover for his own racist paranoia. I’ve seen this type of thing before growing up in the south and it’s just as sick and twisted as it sounds.

  • leliorisen

    What isn’t being reported is that this man has, on numerous occasions performed weddings among siblings. This is the backwoods of Louisiana, after all. Gotta go with community standards.

  • Chris

    If he were a minister I’d say there was an argument for letting him follow his conscience and the tents of his religion. But he’s a justice of the peace, and therefore an agent of the government, and must not be permitted to discriminate.

    Once gay marriage is legal, I will support the right of any church to refuse to marry gays, but not justices of the peace.

  • Clemburke

    Actually this is the best thing that has happend to the gay community reguarding marriage rights.

  • Qjersey

    And people wonder why we make so much fun of the south.

  • ricky

    i don’t think he gets a choice.

  • Bill Perdue

    No point in trying to force him to act human. Obviously he’s not up to it.

    He should be fired and lose his pension. Then he should be incicted. Then he should be sued and his assets confiscated to compensate his victims.

  • TomEM

    The Heene family is biracial and there’s nothing wrong with them.

  • Mike

    If your beliefs conflict with the very duties you were hired to perform, you shouldn’t take the job.

  • Grey

    Justices of the Peace are government officials. Under Louisiana, marriage licenses must be signed by a Louisiana minister, a justice of the peace, or a judge.

    No one is suggesting that ministers are compelled to marry everyone who asks. Some require that one or both be a member of their congregation. Catholics require pre-marital counseling (not a bad idea, though theirs is religiously based) and that the couple agree to raise any children as Catholics even if one partner is of another faith.

    But justices of the peace are government officials. They have to follow the law impartially. They don’t get a religious waiver. Keith Bardwell is arguing that no one was denied the right to marry because they could simply find another J.P. But what if they couldn’t? What if all of the J.P.s in a given area was just as racist?

    Queerty totalled missed the boat when they said: But haven’t we gays said that, when we get our marriage rights, we won’t be forcing anyone — religious institution or otherwise — to marry us? No one I know of has advocated individuals acting in an official government capacity from being able to be recused from performing these marriages. And I know of suits and/or preemptive judicial rulings in the UK, Massachusetts, and California (in the brief window when same-sex marriages were performed) that confirmed that government officials must apply the law equally. In California, a few county clerks decided to stop performing all marriages in order to duck the issue, which they were allowed to do (they still had to issue licenses, but didn’t have to do the actual ceremonies) … but they were not allowed to pick and choose which ones to perform.

  • Deirdre Hebert

    I’m not going to say that he should be forced to perform interracial marriages … it’s his choice whether to do so or not. But if he chooses not to, he should no longer be a Justice of the Peace. If he wants to perform marriages still, he could become a minister and do so that way. Then he would have legal support for his bigotry.

    But as a Justice of the Peace, it is his duty to uphold the laws of his state, and to administer the duties of that state without prejudice, which is something he seems incapable of.

    He should change his ways or find another line of work.

  • InExile

    I think it is horrible that this couple was treated like a gay couple.

    Why do people think they can decide who marries who? It’s none of their business.

  • jason

    Bardwell is a jerk who should be bitch-slapped. What a vile, repulsive earthworm of a human being.

    When you’re a justice of the peace, you’re supposed to act in the interests of the public, not your own vile prejudices.

  • Chuck

    Chris who commented is exactly right.

    If Bardwell were representing the clergy, then he has the right to refuse to marry a couple based upon his religious beliefs.

    However, he is an agent of the State. He is compelled to perform the ceremony or he may refuse and face the consequences of failing to complete his duties. Frankly, he should resign his commission if he feels this strongly about it.

    You may also have seen today that the head of the bible thumping anti-gay group in Maine still does not believe what the Maine Attorney General stated regarding teaching gay marriage in schools. There is no requirement for it, nor restriction against it, with regard to this law. Of course, I would argue the kids should hear about ALL of the world so they are prepared for it. This versus those sheltered kids who, when dumped into the real world of society, were woefully unprepared. Lack of knowledge just breeds more bigots.

    Let’s cross out fingers that the Mainers (I am one) tell the bible thumpers just where to go, come November 3rd.

  • geoff

    Didn’t the Supreme Court settle this 40-some years ago? This guy is a judge and doesn’t know that? What the fuck?

  • Lex

    No he shouldn’t be forced. Why on Earth would they want to ruin one of the most important days of their lives with some bigot gritting his teeth at the sight them?

    If anything that should make them want to find someone who is happy for them.

  • PEter

    Loving v. Virginia.

    ’nuff said

  • bystander

    I think everyone can agree that religious institutions can’t and shouldn’t be force to do things like this against their dogma, but its completely different for a state employee. He has to do his job. Now why anyone would want to force some bigot like this to marry them is beyond me, but i don’t know what else was available to them.

  • Steve

    Clergy have the right to follow their religious beliefs when deciding which marriage ceremonies they will perform. Government employees must perform the duties of the job. If a government employee has religious beliefs that prevent him from doing the job, he should either resign or transfer to a different job. If he does not resign or transfer, and still refuses to do the job, he should be fired for cause.

    The city or state may find itself on the losing end of a federal lawsuit, if it does not require the employee to perform the marriage, or replace that employee with someone else who will.

  • drresol

    It raises an interesting question…if you can discriminate for marital rights on the basis of gender (‘1 man, 1 woman’), why *can’t* you also discriminate on the basis of race as well? I think this guy could (ironically) use the gay marriage ban to argue his position in this case.

    I don’t speak fluent legalese, so if anyone wants to pipe in and clarify this for me feel welcome…but couldn’t you use the gay marriage ban to technically argue for the reinstatement of interracial marriage bans as well? (just playing devil’s advocate here, but it’s an interesting question)

  • Chuck

    DRRESOL – I am no lawyer but I recall in some States (usually southern states) the laws specifically stated the qualifications for obtaining a marriage license. I imagine back in that era (referred to as “The Stone Ages”) the law stated that the parties “must be of the same race.” Once that clause was removed by law, inter-racial marriages became legal as the law was “silent” as they say on race.

    The laws back then defined specific requirements, including gender and race. The race part was removed. The gender part remains. So, as gender still remains, I do not see how the race aspect (now silent) could be brought into the interpretation of the law in order to disallow inter-racial marriages. If one looks at the current law (as I suppose it is), the parties meet all of the qualifications. As I said, the race-test is no longer even mentioned.

    In the gay marriage law, changes to current laws also would need to remove the different gender tests. You would then have “two parties” and, of course, they’d need to meet other requirements such as age of majority, etc.

    This probably is a good time to mentioned the anti-gay marriage crowd who bring up marriage to horses, goats, small children, etc., as the outcome of a gay marriage law. Of course, this is little more than reactionary, inflamatory, and just wrong.

    If marriage to animals and small children were possible, assuming the opposite gender test could be passed, we’d already have instances and challenges in court. We do not. The reason for this is very simple. In order for a contract to be valid, one of its requirements is that the parties involved be “competent.” That is, they have an understanding of what they are doing and they meet the letter of the law for being able to understand the consequenced of the contract. For example, a small child and an animal cannot comprehend the concept of marriage (or of any contract) and thus are not competent. That is why children must reach the age of majority in order to sign a contract. There are specific instances where adults may act as a guardian and essentially sign for the child, but these are laid out in the law and are quite specific.

    That’s my two-cents on it. I am seeing that the opinions are pretty much down the legal line here. The guy is not clergy, he is a JP and thus is acting on behalf of the State. If he chooses to not marry this couple based upon his personal beliefs and convictions, he should resign his commission or face disciplinary actions as deemed appropriate by the State. If he were clergy, then he could decline to perform ceremony, no matter how backward or distasteful this might be to the vast majority of the world.

  • Lex

    I wish some gays would understand just how much they weaken our argument and diminish our fight by comparing our plight with race. Wake up already.

    Every time you compare apples and oranges you give people room to say “That’s not the same.” and ignore us. And they’re totally right, it’s not the same, so stop using it as an example. It hasn’t worked in nearly 30 years, drop it, and stop fitting into the description of an insane person.

  • drresol


    Really? Last I checked, legally speaking, the government of the USA is supposed to be blind. All persons are created equal.

    Black hetero man = human being

    White hetero man = human being

    Black hetero woman = human being

    White hetero woman = human being

    Black/white/et al gay male = human being

    Black/white/et al lesbian = human being

    We see the labels on the left, but government is only suppose to see the label on the right. It should be blind to the labels on the left. It’s what led to interracial marriage being allowed…it violated the constitution that law was pulling up it’s blindfold to peek at the left-hand column…how is that not the same to same sex marriage? (from a legal perspective) After all, civil marriage is a contract between two. adult. consenting. HUMAN BEINGS. The law is suppose to be blind to the color of your skin…or what you have between your legs.

  • Lex

    Yes and apples and oranges are both fruits. That doesn’t mean they’re the same fruit.

    You know damn well what I’m talking about.

    Weakening our own argument by comparing an apple to an orange is completely idiotic. As I’ve said before gays have been trying to use the argument that sexuality is the same as race and all it’s done is blow up in our faces.

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

    Find a BETTER way to express yourself because the comparison you’re trying to make DOESN’T WORK. If it did our fight would be on equal ground with those who are fighting for race based civil rights, clearly we’re behind for a reason.

    You can keep debating that race is the same as sexuality all you want, you’re only making an ass of yourself at this point. Proven by the fact that our progress is stagnated every time it starts up again.

  • Mike_cal

    this is the first time, that someone mentions the reality which i am going through all my life: being bi-racial is not funny. You learn about black racists and white racists and you learn how both claim to be not. If you are mixed, you live in non-belonging zone. Both sides attack and no one seems to understand what it is like.
    Taking away his liscence won’t change reality….like always – misguiding as a pattern of difusion.
    Discimination the couple – laugh out loud…..right, that’s what the problem is about. You guys are so not getting it.

    One person mentioned that they are Treaded like a gay couple. Wow. I role my eyes when speculators want to experts of something they have no clue about.

    Seriously, does here anybody have a clue what a human being goes through being attacked by both sides? America, talking is not a sign of empathy!

  • the pulpit

    Such Hypocrisy! Many Negro’s exercise blatant discrimination – just like Bradwell.

  • Deirdre Hebert

    Personally I don’t believe I’ve heard anyone with any credibility state that being gay, lesbian, bi or lgbt was the same as being Black, Hispanic or anything else.

    What I HAVE heard them say is that in being LGB or T, we have encountered many of the same attitudes as those of minority races. Per capita, LGBT folk are far more likely to be the victims of violence than are any other minority group. We hear about more people of color being beaten or killed, and it does happen more often, but there are many more people of color than there are LGBT folk.

    I don’t say that being LGB or T is the same as being Black; I merely say that we have some of the same struggles; the struggle for physical safety, the struggle for places to live, to work, the struggle to marry whom we choose …

    While an apple and an orange are different, they both grow on trees, and if you chop down all the trees, you’ll have neither.

    Race and sexual orientation are different, but if you live in a country filled with prejudice and bias and bigotry, any minority group can be at risk.

    We aren’t the same, but we have many of the same struggles.

    And to the bi-racial person, I can understand feeling in the middle, but please don’t diminish the turmoil of those in the LGBT community either. Growing up trans, I’ve experienced the beatings, lost job opportunities and more. Everyon’s struggle is unique, and the “mine was worse than yours” attitude won’t help you or anyone else. We all have the capacity to make something of our lives … even me.

  • Kirby

    Pulpit, I’m not sure I’m following what you’re trying to say, forget the fact that you used the word “negros”, which I haven’t even heard since about nineteen seventy suck. Are you saying it’s wrong to point out racism when a white guy does it based solely on the fact that some black people are racist to? Yes, SOME black people are racist. That does not excuse racism from whites. It does not “balance out” and become okay for one individual person just because unnamed “negros” are also racist. There are people of every color, creed and religion who are racists. They’re all wrong and there is not a damned thing wrong with calling them on it, regardless the color of their skin.

    One interesting note, based on some information I found about his political affiliations, this man was Democrat until 2008, when we elected Obama as president. Then he switched to the Republican party. I’m sure a mixed race president had nothing to do with that. Seems to me like he was trying to protect the children from people like himself.

    And this is EXACTLY what gays are going through. These people had to go elsewhere to get a marriage license because this man didn’t like the idea of a non-traditional couple. Discrimination is discrimination and I don’t see why minorities based on skin color have to feel like they are different than minorities based on sexual preference. Gays are going through a very similar process to that which blacks went through in this country not all that long ago. Gays have been killed for being gay, just like blacks being killed for being black. While they don’t have the notoriety of the Klan, there are MANY anti-gay organizations out there. And the hate speech laws haven’t kicked in for gays yet, so “God hates fags” is all right to say. There are people who want to segregate them for being gay. Hell, there are people who want to kill them for being gay. I used to work with a bunch of people that thought gays and child molesters were equals, basically the same thing. There is a lot of hate for gays, just like there was for minorities. It’s just hidden behind religion now, just like racism often is today. There are not so many differences as some would like to imagine.

  • Larry Boyd

    Judge, you did the right thing……mixed marrages are a fad now and disgusting to witness and most times end in divorce…..You are right, very hard on children….

    I support your decision and hope you will do it again!


  • Igor

    Yes, his office should be required to marry anyone who comes in for that request, his personal prejudices should not matter. Oh, and the reason it’s “hard on the children” Larry is because racists like yourself make it hard on them. The only way that he should not be required to marry an interracial couple would be if he was a minister, and the ceremony was requested of the church he presides in.

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