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Louisiana Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell Refuses to Marry Interracial Couples

5 years ago
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Louisiana Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell said he refused to grant an interracial couple a marriage license, but don't get the wrong idea: "I'm not a racist," Bardwell claims. Heavens, no! What could possibly give anyone that idea?

Perhaps, it was this: "I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press. "I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom." Or, perhaps it was this: "I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves. In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer." Yes, won't somebody please think of the children! Quickly, now, before they are forced to accept fates as, oh, say, the popular leader of a global superpower.

As the child of an interracial marriage -- and someone who isn't suffering anymore than is usual for a girl wearing soggy boots and a damp skirt after being caught in this afternoon's rain -- I'm always annoyed when someone tries to pin their own anxieties about multiracial children onto children instead of onto themselves.

What's really appalling though is that Bardwell has done this before -- and without being removed as a justice of the peace. Bardwell told the AP that he's refused to marry four interracial couples in the last 2 1/2 years. Bardwell also claims that at least one office of Louisiana's state government had been made aware of his refusal years ago.

Bardwell told his local paper, the Hammond Daily Star, that he was informed by a state attorney general years ago that his refusal to perform interracial marriages would "eventually get (him) into trouble." Bardwell's response? "I told him if I do, I'll resign. I have rights, too. I'm not obligated to do that just because I'm a justice of the peace."

Responding to Bardwell's comments about the attorney general's office, Jennifer Roche, a spokeswoman for current Louisiana attorney general James Caldwell, told Politics Daily that "this administration has no knowledge of this justice of the peace refusing to perform interracial marriages."

As a justice of the peace, carrying out the law is exactly what Bardwell is obligated to do -- but he may soon be relieved of that obligation. Valerie Willard, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Supreme Court, said she was unaware of the state attorney general's office or anyone else filing complaints against Bardwell. But, she added, as of Friday she had fielded "about eight million complaints" from the public.
Filed Under: Race Issues, Woman Up
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