Judge blocks mixed-race marriage, then says I'm not racist

Calls for US official to be removed from office after he tells couple their offspring would be shunned by both communities

An elected judge in eastern Louisiana was facing a growing clamour for his resignation last night after revelations that he declined to officiate at the wedding of a couple because they were of different races.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it was demanding that the authorities in Louisiana open an investigation. In a letter to the state Judiciary Commission, the group said it was recommending the "the most severe sanctions available, because such blatant bigotry poses a substantial threat of serious harm to the administration of justice".

Keith Bardwell, who is a justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish close to the border with Mississippi, is not denying that he said no to the young lovers earlier this month. He countered that he saw nothing wrong with declining to marry Beth Humphrey, 30, and Terence McKay, 32. She is white and he is black. They subsequently got married elsewhere.

"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," said Mr Bardwell, who has served as a justice of the peace for the county for more than 30 years. "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."

Ms Humphrey, an account manager for an advertising firm who has plans to study for a Masters in minority politics, said she telephoned the Bardwell home on 6 October to ask him to officiate at what she and her fiancé envisaged as an intimate wedding. They were hoping to have a bigger ceremony some time later in South Carolina.

She spoke to the judge's wife who towards the end of the conversation asked if they were both of the same race or not. After she revealed that this would be a mixed-race wedding, Mrs Bardwell said her husband would not be able to help.

"It's not something you expect in this day and age," Ms Humphrey commented. The incident is evidence that the post-racial society most Americans aspire to has still not quite arrived everywhere. It blew up the same week that Barack Obama, himself the child of a mixed-race marriage, visited Louisiana.

"Louisianians are again being shown in national media as backward-minded people," lamented the editors of Reveille, the Louisiana State University newspaper. "He should be removed from his public office because of this embarrassing, racist and likely illegal decision."

The protestations of Mr Bardwell hardly help, nor his insistence that it is the offspring of such unions that he is trying to protect. In all his career, he says, he has turned away about four couples, most of them in the last couple of years or so.

His contention is that children of mixed-race marriages are shunned both by white and black society. "There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," he said. "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it." He also said white-black marriages unravel more often.

There is some data to back up the last assertion. A recent study by the National Centre for Health Statistics found that 41 per cent of mixed-race marriages broke up within 10 years while the same fate awaited 31 per cent of same-race marriages. But in turning Ms Humphrey and Mr McKay away, Mr Bardwell may have broken the law. Legal experts pointed to a US Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Virginia law impeding mixed-race marriages. Fifteen other states with similar laws were also obliged to repeal them.

"He's an elected public official and one of his duties is to marry people. He doesn't have the right to say he doesn't believe in it," said Patricia Morris, president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk