Parish leader denies marriage license to interracial couple

A parish leader in Hammond, Louisiana is in the hot seat with the ACLU for refusing to grant a marriage license to a mixed race couple. Keith Bardwell of Tangipahoa Parish insists that he is not a racist, he's merely looking out for the well-being of the children that the couple might bear.
"I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house," Bardwell said. "My main concern is for the children." ...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. "I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves," Bardwell said. "In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer."
Meanwhile, the yet-to-be-married couple, 30-year old Beth Humphrey and 32-year old Terence McKay, are looking to file a discrimination complaint with the Justice Department, and the ACLU is asking the Louisiana Supreme Court to investigate. Just for the record, it is illegal for a parish leader to refuse to marry a couple on the basis of their race. Interracial couple denied marriage license in La.


    1. Nope, it’s just the south… Which “doesn’t have a problem” with racism, homophobia, etc, etc anymore than the rest of the country.
      Right apologists?

  1. What – Is afraid that the children might end up being elected as President?

    The phrase ‘pure breeding is inbreeding’ comes to mind . .

  2. Of course one of the situations “these children” may encounter is being leader of the free world, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize as well as the boss of the head of the justice department who investigates racist pinhead judges.

  3. Ah, the Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner defense? Don’t get married because people will treat you and your children like shit if you do. (Starting with not letting you get married.)

    And then there is the assumption that the couple in question wants to have kids. ie…the default “people get married to make baaaaaybeees!” idea. (Hey, I want offspring but why assume everybody does.) But even so, it’s their decision, not his. Sweet baby jeebus, women get treated horribly all over the world, so stop racially-homogenous couples from having kids too in case they give birth to a baby girl and she has to experience sexism.

    I hope he gets the book thrown at him.

  4. …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.

    And by “society” he means Keith Bardwell. Maybe someone should tell this guy that it’s still possible to reproduce without a license?

    Still, he makes just as much sense as those who would deny a same-sex couple the right to marry (which is to say, none at all).

  5. I agree with the Parish leader, we should worry for the children of an interracial couple.

    Those kids could grow up to be President of the United States or some other awful fate.

  6. More evidence that the state needs to get out of authorizing marriages. It’s not anyone else’s business who you marry.

      1. “Parish” as in administrative area of civil government, not as in church.

        But in fact, they’re just evolved (or devolved) Catholic parishes. Even if the church isn’t running things, it would be a bit odd if we called our mayor Monsignor or our governor Cardinal.

        1. @ Antinous: I was just clarifying the legal situation for TheWillow. Personally I don’t care if some vestiges of religion remain in the nomenclature of local government as long as our civil servants do what they’re supposed to. Imagine having to rename every American city named after a Catholic saint!

  7. yeah, rage. What is a Parish leader anyway? Is that like a justice of the peace? Is he an ordained minister? Is he a civil servant or a religious leader, or both? Seems easy enough to fire him if he works for the state. If he’s just some crackpot with an internet-ordination, we can let him preach his nonsense all he wants.

  8. The thing that amazes me about this, besides the obvious, is that it appears to have been going on for some time now, and these folk are the first to make a stink.

    I know there are regional differences, but how can people be willing to tolerate this kind of thing in this day and age?

  9. What is it about these small parishes in Louisiana? Did this guy just wake up from a 50 year coma? Do they have TV? Oh, I know…I bet that this guy Bardwell himself is of “mixed” blood.

  10. But he can’t be that bad a guy! I mean, he lets them use his bathroom! Not the towels, mind you, but they’re welcome to use the rest of it.

  11. Oh yes, Mr. Bardwell, I can tell you’re all broken up about not being able to, in good conscience, subject this couple’s poor potential children to the heartbreak of racists who, for instance, might not allow them to marry whomever they fall in love with and want to share their lives with. I can see you’d love to fight the good fight against racial segregation, but you’re just one man, aren’t you? Don’t worry, though, we’ll keep fighting, and maybe someday you’ll be able to marry whomever you want to marry.

  12. I’m surprised that no one’s mentioned the “I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house” comment yet.

    It’s the new “don’t judge me – some of my best friends are black!”

  13. When I first read this, I thought the leader was a church official. It shocked me that it could be illegal for a church leader not to be able to decide who to marry.

    But, since this is a government official we’re talking about, I can see that this is discrimination, and should be fixed.

  14. I initially misread this title as “Pariah leader denies…” and am convinced that this would be more rational.

  15. @ Antinous and TheWillow: Yeah, I live in southern Louisiana and virtually no one here attaches any religious connection to the word parish as it applies to an administrative area of civil government, even though most of them are religious people. To us, it’s just another word for county, like laptop is to notebook.

    As for this Bardwell hick: What an A-hole. Seriously.

    1. also @brainspore

      I see… pardon me, I’m gonna go back to my commonwealth and glare at people with differently named local governments.

  16. I don’t do interracial marriages because I don’t want to put children in a situation they didn’t bring on themselves

    Yes. I always find it better to only put children into situations they’ve wrought upon themselves. That way, they get what they deserve.

  17. Can’t you all see that the man is a hero? He’s not racist. He’s protecting children from racism. They aren’t even born yet, and he’s protecting them. In fact, he’s protecting them from racism by making sure they aren’t born in the first place.

    1. In fact, he’s protecting them from racism by making sure they aren’t born in the first place.

      Heh heh. Good point. You can’t be much better protected than a pair of disconnected gametes.

  18. I think this guy is on the right track. Although to be fair with his prejudice he should only marry:

    * fat people to skinny people (don’t want anyone too fat nor too skinny being bred);

    * tall people to short people (I’ve seen first hand how hard it is for children that are abnormally tall/short for their age, it’s a horrible thing to have ‘brought onto them’); and

    * people with lots of freckles to people with no freckles (I’m still haunted by school yard chants of “freckle face, freckle face”).

    He should also refuse to marry anyone with red hair to anyone else. Everyone knows red heads get a hard time all their lives and it’s just not fair on the children.

  19. ok.. now that racism exists in america again do we australians still have to sit facing the corner?

  20. Oh. my. goodness. It wasn’t until I read this on npr that I realized that this is talking about a parish (as in a county, not a church) This is so much worse!! Based on the comments it seems that other people might be assuming this too? Might be worth a post clarification?

    1. It probably would have been less confusing if Lisa had referred to this jerk as a “Justice of the Peace” (his actual job title) rather than a “Parish Leader,” which can mean either a religious leader or government official depending on context.

  21. It’s Hammond, Louisiana. It’s allegedly a college town, but it’s an odd place. Tangipahoa Parish was one of the original battlegrounds for the intelligent design scam.

    Not exactly the most progressive of places. It’s also my hometown, where i still reside. Bardwell presided over the first wedding of a friend of mine many years ago. Bardwell’s gratuity for the service was some porn on VHS.

  22. of course, the best way to solve any problem that ‘these children’ might have, would be TO MAKE LOTS AND LOTS OF THEM.

    i raise a glass to you, beth & terence. may you have a long and happy life together. and exactly as many children as you feel like having.

  23. Yes, this is complete bullshit, but it’s not like the couple can’t get married at all: they can go to another parish or state and come back with all of their marriage rights intact… unlike my gay ass.

  24. Unfortunately (for his legal reasoning), marriage licenses are issued to INDIVIDUALS and not to ethnic groups nor ethnicities.

    C’mon! He’s not racist! He’s ethnic-groupist! Or black-white-cultural-difference-ist! But totally not racist. The race of the applicants was totally not considered. No, no – he totally viewed them purely as individuals. And he doesn’t force people to shit themselves! Awesome in his magnanimity.

  25. I’m sure this will be all the rage of conversation at Red, White, and Brew tomorrow afternoon! I may even drop by for the company… hehe.

  26. Look, it’s definitely racist and definitely unreconstructed, but it’s not like two (hetero) people can’t find another place to get married. It’s his loss, and probably (unfortunately) reflects the community that he is a part of. This minister deserves our pity, not our anger.

  27. The marriage license was invented shortly after the civil war specifically so it could be refused to mixed couples. No law requires anybody to ask for one.


    Also, I think it’s funny how this parallels the gay marriage debate so perfectly. And also ironic because this interracial couple, while outraged at being denied a marriage license for themselves, probably

    (saying this because, living in the south, they have a pretty high chance of being conservative people, though I’m not saying that they definitely are or are not)

    would not stand up for the rights of gays to marry. Even though it’s the exact same situation.

    1. A “Justice of the Peace” is an officer of the court, more akin to a Judge than a Mayor. Which makes this even more egregious since he’s one of the people in charge of enforcing the law and not some random idiot who happened to win an election.

      1. Actually, members of the judicial branch interpret the law. Separation of powers leaves enforcement to the police. This makes it all the more egregious, since he is sworn to uphold the law. He cannot create laws, as that is reserved to the legislative branch. I’m sure any law prohibiting mixed race marriage has long since been stricken from the books, even in backwoods Louisiana. He should not be allowed the dignity of resignation. He should be canned / removed from office in disgrace, since he has plainly overstepped his jurisdiction (not to mention insulting all Americans and the office he holds.) Better still, since he is old-school, he should be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail.

        And how exactly is he defining mixed race without being racist? Does he also not allow, say, an Irish person to marry an Italian? A person of Russian descent to marry a Swede? “Pure” race doesn’t exist even among long established nationalities. We are all of “mixed blood” if you go far enough back in time. So I’m sure his definition is along the lines of skin color. He has no legal or moral grounds for making such a distinction. Congratulations, you just set the human race back 50 years in our collective evolution, Mr. Bardwell.

  29. Ironic that this guy should become the poster child for what happens when the logic of protecting the unborn is pushed to its limits.

  30. Oh come on church, ligh-ten UP! It’s not like it’s a same-sex couple asking to be wed or anything!

    I wish humanity would hurry the hell up to a post-religious reality while I’m still young enough to enjoy it.

  31. Hah. Yeah, so because I was born between an American and Japanese I’m supposed to be a victim of horrible discrimination and might as well not have existed. Actually it’s made me more humanist and aware of the false ways people separate themselves into “us” and “them”, precisely what men like this wouldn’t want.

    Very good point made by someone here about how he just assumes the couple want kids.

  32. What is this, 1959? Naah, 1966. (Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme court case where this sort of poo was declared unconstitutional was decided in 1967)

  33. He’s actually a justice of the peace, according to the article linked. I agree that calling him a “parish leader” is just confusing, especially when he’s not actually called that anywhere in the article.

  34. Bardwell said he asks everyone who calls about marriage if they are a mixed race couple. If they are, he does not marry them, he said.

    If he did an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said.

    “I try to treat everyone equally,” he said.

    People, come on. This guy is just trying to treat everyone equally. Am I the only one who thinks that this man deserves a pat on the back?

  35. I like his assumption that only married people have kids…

    Another newspaper has this detail:

    He said the state attorney general told him years ago that he would eventually get into trouble for not performing interracial marriages.

    “I told him if I do, I’ll resign,” Bardwell said. “I have rights too. I’m not obligated to do that just because I’m a justice of the peace.”

    Ummm… I pretty much think he is obligated because of that…

    Also, read the comments on that site to see some of the mental hoops people jump through to justify this guy’s actions

  36. Obviously he’s in the wrong. But I can’t help but wonder what he would do if an interracial couple came in and said they were getting married but weren’t planning on having children.

  37. I love one of justifications (via CNN this morning); mixed marriages don’t last. Uhm, pardon me, but based on statistics, most marriages in the South don’t last…
    …at least in 2004.
    As for the good JoP – hope he gets sacked. Though I doubt it (Hero of the Right, no doubt, and I expect that Rush will hold him high today…).

  38. This actually makes me feel ill. I thought we finished with this kind of shit years ago. Must we really continue to endure racist BS in the 21st century? Can some creative BoingBoinger please think of some kind of fun and amusing action we can take to send that asshole the message that we are sick of hearing from people like him?

  39. Just since nobody’s mentioned yet, I’ll just point out that laws against interracial marriage were declared unconstitutional in 1967, in the unanimous (and very aptly-named) Loving v. Virginia case.

  40. Is it just me or does this remind anyone else of the Bush administration’s legislation addressing healthcare workers having a “right” to not perform abortions or administer contraception (Plan B and pharmacists being in the news most often of late) because of a conscience clause?

    Bardewll says: “I didn’t tell this couple they couldn’t get married. I just told them I wouldn’t do it.” His wife referred the couple to another justice of the peace.

    1. Yes, the same administration that said doctors could opt out of performing abortions would not allow federal judges they appointed to do anything less than tow the party line in cases they presided over; executed more people in Texas than ever before in its history (as Governor) and would not allow servicemen who objected to our preemptive wars to abstain from duties that conflicted with their conscience. And don’t get me started on election legitimacy.

  41. After the Australian Hey Hey incident “We are in what people like to call post-racial America right now with (Barack) Obama in office,” The View’s co-host, Joy Behar

    And NOW this? Post racial America?? MY ASS!

  42. Hey, folks, we should be thanking this activist judge for making it easier for the gay marriage people to argue that the government shouldn’t be deciding who’s allowed to get married. (And the couple he insulted have gone to another judge in the area and gotten married, so at least that problem’s fixed.)

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