USA: Interracial couple denied marriage license

Last week, in Hammond, Louisiana, Beth Humphrey (who is white) and Terence McKay (who is black) applied for a marriage license and were refused on the basis of their races.  The justice of the peace, Keith Bardwell, claimed that in his experience, “interracial marriages do not last long” and stated that he was “doing it for the children.”

“Jim Crow laws” which required separate facilities for black and white Americans ended in 1965, and anti-miscegenation laws that forbade interracial marriage or sex ended in all states by 1967.

But racism still exists. Although much of the time it lies beneath the surface, occasionally racism rears its ugly head in a way that is impossible to miss; this story made headlines across the United States, prompting blog posts from the local community and beyond.

In response to Bardwell's “defense” that he marries black couples all the time, the anti-racist blog Stuff White People Do expressed outrage, saying:

Well, how thoroughly magnanimous of you, Justice Bardwell. Not to mention, intrusively paternalistic.

Speaking of Bardwell's house, which I'm sure is just overrun with joyous hordes of black and white children carousing together, he also had this to say:

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.

Ah yes, black friends too, piles of them. Right there, in his bathroom!

A commenter on the blog, Siditty (who also wrote her own post here), touched on the irony of Bardwell's anger:

I always wonder about a man who comes from Louisiana, who has a strong history of race mixing, through the system of placage as well as creole culture, is now all the sudden concerned about the children. They weren't concerned in the 1700s, he shouldn't be now.

The blog Racism Review countered Bardwell's “concern for the children” with evidence on children of interracial relationships:

And, to further review the evidence, children of interracial marriages do not suffer in when compared to other children provided that they grow up in an environment that’s accepting of diversity and children of interracial marriages.   If children of interracial marriages encounter racism (and other structural disadvantages), then they’re more likely to experience stress, and health-related risks due to that increased stress, such as smoking and drinking. That’s a result of racism,  and yet another reason to work to end racism.  It should not be used – turning logic on its head – as a reason to perpetuate racism.

And Black Girl in Maine touched on the “what about the kids?” question as well, noting the experiences of her own biracial son:

As for the kids, what about the kids? Yes, biracial kids sometimes catch flack from others but not always and I think among the youth today its almost considered cool to be biracial. As a buddy mentioned to me my son most certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of friends male or female. I think the only time biracial kids have real issues is when they have no one to talk to them about their roots. I think when kids are connected to their historical roots as well as community, it creates a safe space for them.

In the United States, anti-miscegenation laws in many states banned the marriage of white Americans to black Americans (and Americans of some other ethnicities) in a number of states.  While in some states, these laws were repealed as early as 1780, in sixteen states the laws were not repealed until a 1967 case, Loving vs. Virginia, in which an interracial couple who had married in Washington, D.C. were arrested in their own bedroom.  Their legal battle made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, at which point the laws were overturned.

A number of bloggers touched on the legal aspects of the case. One blogger, Jay Says, writes:

As a Justice of the Peace, he should be aware that interracial marriage is not illegal anymore – having been deemed unconstitutional 40 years ago.  This particular instance hits home after this weekends National Equality March wherein I briefly interviewed an straight, interracial couple, the Newmans (pictured) about why they are marching.

Racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance and other biases  can and do exist in our society, but they must not exist under the law.  To allow an employee of the government who is paid by the taxes of the “free” people of the United States (or in this case, a state in the United States) to use his/her own personal beliefs to decide matters governed by civil law is abhorrent.  If he doesn’t agree with interracial marriage, he needs to find a new job – perhaps Grand Master of the Ku Klux Klan?

Finally, one blogger has taken the opportunity to turn this incident into a moment of learning.  The blogger, whose blog is called What Do I Know?, begs readers to think about their own feelings on the subject:

If you doubt that racism still lives inside us all, consider your reaction to the idea of marrying outside your race, particularly if you are white and the other race is black. Yeah, it's ok for other people, but wouldn't you find some good, rational reasons why your daughter would be making her life far more difficult when she brings home her black fiance? Be honest. Even if you said, “No problem” didn't you hesitate just a little? If you didn't you're unusual.

With Bardwell now saying that he won't resign over the matter, one thing is certain: there is surely more news to come.


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