Justice of the Peace and the Wedding Bell Blues

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  • Hi Members,

    This is the year 2009….or am I in the wrong century? A Justice of the Peace, Keith Bardwell, in Louisana refused to marry a couple because of their race. Beth Humphrey, 30, and 32-year-old Terence McKay were denied a marriage license based on interacial issues. She is white and he is black.

    Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. 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.

    Bardwell claims he has not broken any laws. He simply told the couple he would not marry them…….not that they could not get married.

    We all live in a society to practice anti racism…but behind closed doors is whole other story. Many parents and family members are apalled at the prospect of their son or daughter marrying out of there race…..any race.

    Is Bardwell right? Is interacial marriages not just among blacks and whites but of any interational couple, cause such disruption in raising a family that it should be discouraged?

  • Well, I saw that and kind of "WTH??" as it's really NOT up to him to decide about who shouldn't or should marry.

    He was (I'm not sure) nominated or elected into such a position. As such, he MUST follow the law that is in the state constitution and not his personal "Preferences"

    BTW the hardest marriages to survive, are Jewsih and Cathoilic.

  • Genenco is certainly right here.  He is a Justice of the Peace NOT a cleryperson. 

  • Oopps..........maybe i should of mentioned he was a clergyman!!!

  • Lips, wouldn't change a thing.

    a ships Captain has the privledge to marry anybody on ship. But first and last, he's the Captain.

    Justice of the peace doesn't have to be a clergy, they are an "Office Holder" bound by rules. (Found out they are elected by the town) and so, this IS a offense which he will be removed for his "attitude" shortly.

    Again, first and last, they must be for all people and not just who they think will be good for a "Marriage"

    BTW, here's the "Requirements" of a JOP in LA:

    These are the basic qualifications to run for the office of justice of the peace or constable. For more detailed explanations, please visit the Louisiana Secretary of State's website, www.sos.louisiana.gov.

    n There are five requirements all candidates must meet in order to qualify to serve as a justice of the peace or constable. Please see LA R.S. 13:2582 and LA R.S. 13:2583 for more details.

    n Qualifications:
    • Good Moral Character
    • Qualified Elector - The candidate is qualified to cast a ballot in the election.
    • Qualified Candidate must live in the ward and district from which they seek election.
    • Qualified Candidate must be able to read and write the English language.
    • Qualified Candidate must possess a high school diploma or graduate equivalency degree (GED).
    n A person must be under the age of 70 years on the date of qualification in order to run for the office of justice of the peace or constable. A JP or constable who attains 70 years of age while serving a term of office shall be allowed to complete that term.

    n JPs who have been appointed by the Supreme Court to fill a vacancy, are not qualified to run for election to that office.

  • If he was a clergyperson only, then he certainly has the right to refuse to officiate, whether the reason is a good one or not.  Frankly, clergy are the only ones in our society right now who, thank God, can say NO to officiating at an improper marriage.  (I certainly would not consider racial issues "improper.")  However, if he is an elected or appointed government official, then he must perform the ceremony.

  • Drpsyce, this reminds me of about 2-4 years ago. There's a coalition of ministers in the south who when informed that a couple want to marry, they have them go through a few weeks of discussion and personal observations or such to see just how good of a marriage it might be.

    They had many times told prespective couples that "Yes, you can marry, but we won't do it as we feel you're not ready"

    Holy mackeral! Take about honest Pastors/preachers. THAT'S what we really need right now in the USA, ministers who freaking CARE about the commitment to a marriage.

  • I am on the committee that supports my pastor at my church.  Frankly, I hope she talks 50% of couples OUT of getting married.

  • I agree Shell...........aren't we all married to some degree to a different race. Who are we to decide which race is wrong and which race is right.

  • Regarding the refusal to marry a opposite race couple, Yahoo posted this, I think it's very true and timely.

    Atlanta – Louisiana justice of the peace Keith Bardwell's refused to marry a white woman and a black man reportedly because he believed that children of an interracial marriage would suffer socially.

    That view was once common in the United States, and might have had some basis decades ago when such marriages were taboo and multiracial families were sometimes ostracized. But today, not only are mixed-race children widely accepted but some research suggests they might even have some social advantages.

    Researchers are finding that multiracial kids can sometimes be better socially adjusted than single-race offspring. And with the high-profile success of multiracial progeny such as Tiger Woods, Halle Berry, and President Obama (who at his first press conference as president described himself as a "mutt"), stereotypes about the split world of the "tragic mulatto" have long fallen by the wayside.

    The American Civil Liberties Union is now threatening a lawsuit if Mr. Bardwell, veteran justice of the peace at Tangipahoa Parish, doesn't step down. The group calls Bardwell's refusal to issue a marriage licence to Beth Humphrey (who is white) and Terence McKay (who is black) both "tragic and illegal."

    "I'm not a racist," Bardwell told a local newspaper. "I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children."

    The 'tragic mulatto'
    Refusing to issue marriage licenses for reasons of race has been illegal in the US since the Supreme Court in 1967 struck down anti-miscegenation laws in 16 states, mostly in the South.

    Research on mixed-race children once focused on the social and psychological problems that can arise from not feeling like a full member of any racial group. That notion permeated early 20th century American literature through the figure of the "tragic mulatto," who did not fit in with either the black or white world.

    As recently as 1968, the psychologist J.D. Teicher wrote, "Although the burden of the Negro child is recognized as a heavy one, that of the Negro-White child is seen to be even heavier."

    The idea that mixed-race children were biologically inferior to white or black kids was also widespread in the South, and often formed the basis of anti-miscegenation laws during Jim Crow years. (Researchers have found that not only is that not true, but that mixed-race offspring tend to be overall more physically attractive than their peers.)

    Changing views
    But loosening of marriage laws and more-accepting social mores have transformed perceptions of multiracial families. For one thing, there are now 7 million mixed-race kids in the US, up from 500,000 in the 1970s.

    A 2008 study of 182 mixed-race high school kids in California found that these kids didn't focus on exclusionary features like skin color or hair texture when thinking about themselves, but instead, they appeared to feel that their heritage made them "unique."

    The kids are able to "place one foot in the majority and one in the minority group, and in this way might be buffered against the negative consequences of feeling tokenized," the study authors wrote in the Journal of Social Issues. The students surveyed included those with mixed Asian, Hispanic heritage.

    Other studies suggest that while mixed-race kids may no longer feel the burden of discrimination, they still face unique challenges. A 2008 study led by Harvard researchers found that mixed-race adolescents tend to engage in risky behavior outside of school at higher rates than average and also fare "somewhat worse on measures of psychological wellbeing."

    The reality for many mixed-race children probably lies somewhere between liberating and restrictive. On a Yale University blog this year, biracial student Phoebe Hinton wrote: "I am lucky enough to have an excuse flowing in my veins to do whatever … I want: there are some things white people do and … I'll do them. There are some things black people do, and … I'll do them."

    "Pretty much the only thing people won't accept me doing," she adds, "is continuing to identify as neither black nor white, but an amalgam of the two."

    Whether biracial children in rural Louisiana experience the same confidence in their identity – in a region where race arguably still hangs heavier than other parts of the country – is an open question.

    Even if they don't, Bardwell, the justice of the peace, will be hard-pressed to convince anybody – including potentially the US Justice Department – that that's any of his business.

  • Well, I saw that and kind of "WTH??" as it's really NOT up to him to decide about who shouldn't or should marry.

    He was (I'm not sure) nominated or elected into such a position. As such, he MUST follow the law that is in the state constitution and not his personal "Preferences"

    BTW the hardest marriages to survive, are Jewsih and Cathoilic.

    Oy vey, I gotta take issue w/ that last line sad  At least in my case, anyway.  Bruce & I have been 2gether 5 yrs., lived 2gether for 2, & just got married almost 4 weeks ago.  He is Jewish; he comes from a large family that consists of many nieces & nephews who have married outside of their religion.  Growing up they celebrated both Hannukah & Christmas.  I, on the other hand, grew up Catholic.  We are both older (40's & 50's), & have experienced our share of heartaches in our lives, so when we finally found each other, religion was a minor- if nonexistent- concern.  I have always had a profound interest in the Jewish faith/ traditions, etc, but converting is not an issue.  I have a deep, abiding belief in Jesus, so that pretty much eliminates the possibility of my converting!  Bruce & I respect our differences, as do our families.  In fact, he has 1 sister who practices Catholicism, & one who practices Judaism.  smiley
  • Actually, the research shows interfaith marriages survive a better than no-faith marriages.  In other words, a Jew and a Roman Catholic STATISTICALLY have a better shot at making it than two agnostics.  Now, before a couple of LCB agnostics take me to task for what a great marriage they have, remember, I am talking STATISTICALLY.  I will sure two atheists or agnostics have wonderful marriages.

  • A Louisiana justice of the peace who drew criticism for refusing to marry an interracial couple has resigned, the secretary of state's office said Tuesday.

    Keith Bardwell resigned in person at the Louisiana secretary of state's office, said spokesman Jacques Berry. The state Supreme Court will appoint an interim justice of the peace to fill Bardwell's position, Berry said, and a special election will be held next year to fill the position permanently.

    Bardwell, a justice of the peace for Tangipahoa Parish's 8th Ward, refused to perform a marriage ceremony for Beth Humphrey, 30, and her boyfriend Terence McKay, 32, both of Hammond, Louisiana, and sign their marriage license. The two were married by another justice of the peace.

    The couple filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Bardwell and his wife, Beth Bardwell, on October 20, claiming the two violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

    Bardwell, speaking to CNN affiliate WBRZ, said he was advised "that I needed to step down because they was going to take me to court, and I was going to lose."

    "I would probably do the same thing again," he said. "I found out I can't be a justice of the peace and have a conscience."

    Initial reports were that Bardwell refused to issue a marriage license to the couple, but in the lawsuit Humphrey and McKay say they obtained the license from the parish court clerk's office and contacted Bardwell to see if he would perform the ceremony and sign the license to legally validate the marriage.

    Humphrey wound up speaking by telephone with Beth Bardwell, the lawsuit said, and Beth Bardwell asked Humphrey if they were a "mixed couple." When told they were an interracial couple, Beth Bardwell said, according to the lawsuit, "We don't do interracial weddings," and told her the two would have to go outside the parish to marry.

    Bardwell did not return repeated phone calls from CNN in October, but told CNN affiliate WAFB that he had no regrets about the decision. "It's kind of hard to apologize for something that you really and truly feel down in your heart you haven't done wrong," he said.

    I found out I can't be a justice of the peace and have a conscience.

    --Keith Bardwell
    In addition, he told the Hammond Daily Star in an October story that he did not marry the couple because he was concerned for the children that might be born of the relationship and that, in his experience, most interracial marriages don't last.

    "I'm not a racist," he said. "I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children."

    Humphrey said in October that she wanted Bardwell to resign. "He doesn't believe he's being racist, but it is racist," she said.

    According to the lawsuit, Bardwell estimated he refused to marry at least four other interracial couples in the past 2½ years.

    "Defendant Beth Bardwell ... aided, abetted and conspired with defendant Keith Bardwell to deprive plaintiffs of their constitutionally protected civil rights," according to the suit.

    No response to the suit has been filed, and it was unclear whether the Bardwells had retained an attorney. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, claiming that Humphrey and McKay suffered emotional distress as a result of the incident.

    Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he believed Bardwell should lose his license, and the National Urban League called for an investigation into the incident by the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, saying in a statement that Bardwell's actions were "a huge step backward in social justice."

    According to the Census Bureau, Tangipahoa Parish is about 70 percent white and 30 percent black.

    The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out any racially-based limitations on marriage in the landmark 1967 ruling in the case Loving v. Virginia. In the unanimous decision, the court said that under the Constitution, "the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."

  • Hey Gene,

    Thanks for the update. What blows me away was this comment:

    "I would probably do the same thing again," he said. "I found out I can't be a justice of the peace and have a conscience."

    Can't have a conscience?? He has a conscience though to forbid to marry two people because of there race?

    Something is really really wrong with this guy!!!


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