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.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Life and Style
i100

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Private Client Lawyer

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: Private Cl...

Technical Product Marketing Specialist - London - £70,000

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Cloud Product and Solutions Marketin...

Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

£18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week