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Louisiana magistrate denies marriage license to interracial couple

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A justice of the peace in northern Louisiana has refused to grant a marriage license to an interracial couple because he believes it would harm any children born of that relationship.

“I’m not a racist,” Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in the state’s Tangihapoa Parish, told the Hammond, Louisiana, Daily Star. “I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children.”

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The Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is calling the justice’s move “tragic and illegal.”

The Hammond Daily Star reports:

Beth Humphrey, 30, said she and her boyfriend, Terence McKay, 32, both of Hammond, intend to consult the US Justice Department about filing a discrimination complaint.

Humphrey said she called Bardwell Oct. 6 to inquire about getting a marriage license signed. She said Bardwell’s wife told her that Bardwell will not sign marriage licenses for interracial couples.

The paper quotes the justice of the peace as saying that “99 percent of the time” an interracial couple will consist of a black man and white woman, and “I find that rather confusing.”

Evidently, Bardwell has long had a policy of not marrying interracial couples, and admitted that Louisiana’s attorney general had warned him years ago that he could “get into trouble” because of it.

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

Bardwell said that neither black nor white society accepts the offspring of an interracial couple, and the children suffer as a result. He also stated that interracial families are unstable, and the children of these families often end up in the care of grandparents.

“In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer,” he said, adding that “if he does an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all,” the Daily Star writes.

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

Humphrey and McKay are considering filing a discrimination complaint with the US Justice Department.

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