So Long, Guy Who Refused to Marry Interracial Couple

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"I do hereby resign," began the only sentence anybody was interested in hearing out of Keith Bardwell, who until November 3 had been Justice of the Peace for the Eighth Ward of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana.  Everybody has been calling for him to get out of the justicing business since early October, when he refused to sign a couple's marriage license because one is white and the other is black.

No matter where you practice law or what kind of law it is, it's probably a good idea to take a look at the case reports at least once a decade, because the law, it do change occasionally.  Race-based restrictions on marriage have been illegal for, oh, 42 years now, since the Supreme Court's decision in Loving v. Virginia.  Pick up a paper every once in a while, Bardwell.

As a ridiculous historical note, here's the fine tradition that Bardwell has apparently been following: in Loving, the trial judge stated in his opinion that "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and He placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with His arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix." Not that it's really necessary to respond to that, but if He had really separated the races, and done so because He did not intend for the races to mix, He would not have left three of the continents connected so the races could walk back and forth between them. Give the Guy some credit.

Pocahontas! Ridiculous historical note #2: the Supreme Court also noted in its decision that the Virginia statute that prohibited intermarriage at the time made only one exception, for certain people descended from American Indians.  Specifically, it provided that "persons who have one-sixteenth or less of the blood of the American Indian and have no other non-Caucasic blood shall be deemed to be white persons."  Why that one odd exception?  According to the sources cited by the Court, it was intended to recognize "as an integral and honored part of the white race the descendants of John Rolfe and Pocahontas . . . ."  Pocahontas! 

Anyway.  Bardwell doesn't seem to have known that all this was held unconstitutional in 1967, or didn't care.  When questioned about his refusal, he admitted that he routinely avoided marrying interracial couples, but claimed he was doing it on behalf of the children.  "I'm not a racist," he insisted.  "I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house.  My main concern is for the children [of interracial couples]," he said, who he apparently believes will inevitably suffer from a crippling stigma that may render them forever unable to, let's say, become President of the United States.  PICK UP A PAPER EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, BARDWELL!

Bardwell has maintained that he didn't do anything wrong, and was still saying that even after he resigned.  CNN quoted Bardwell as saying he had been advised "that I needed to step down because they was going to take me to court, and I was going to lose."  They was taking him to court — they done filed a civil-rights lawsuit on October 20 — and they still is.  The couple's lawyer pointed out that Bardwell's resignation did not make their discrimination claims moot.

Senator Mary Landrieu and Governor Bobby Jindal both expressed extreme gladness that Bardwell had decided to resign and end his "embarrassing tenure in office."

Link: Wikipedia (all about Pocahontas)