Friday, October 16, 2009

Louisiana Interracial Couple Denied Marriage License

This is a guest post from the ever brilliant Monica of TransGriot

image Looks like gay couples aren't the only ones being denied the ability to get married in Louisiana.

We made the argument in Kentucky when our marriage ban was on the ballot in 2004 that if you banned same gender marriages, and gave local clerks the power to deny or annul people's marriages, then the marriages of people they didn't like would also be on the chopping block.

Hmm, didn't take long for them to go after interracial marriages now did it?
A justice of the peace in Hammond, LA put on his pointed white sheet and denied a marriage license to an interracial couple.

Guess he hasn't heard about the 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case in which they ruled 9-0, the government cannot prohibit marriages simply because of the race of the spouses.

Tangipahoa Parish justice of the peace Keith Bardwell said he refused to issue a marriage license to 31 year old Beth Humphrey and 32-year-old Terence McKay of Hammond citing concern for any children the couple might have.

While predictably denying in the Hammond Daily Star he wasn't a racist, he then offered his opinion that most interracial marriages do not last long.
"I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house," Bardwell said. "My main concern is for the children."

He 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.

"I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves," Bardwell said. "In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer."

If he does an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all. "I try to treat everyone equally," he said.

Yeah, right. Where's the equality in this situation?

The couple stated they will consult the US Justice Department about filing a discrimination complaint.
Humphrey told the newspaper she called Bardwell on October 6 to inquire about getting a marriage license signed. She says Bardwell's wife told her that Bardwell will not sign marriage licenses for interracial couples.

“I simply can’t believe he can do that. That’s blatant discrimination,” Humphrey said.

The Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union and the Tangipahoa Parish Chapter of the NAACP agree.

Louisiana ACLU Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman said Bardwell’s refusal to sign the license is both “tragic and illegal.”

Pat Morris, NAACP Tangipahoa Parish chapter president, said she was shocked to hear that the choice of a spouse is still an issue in Tangipahoa Parish.

Humphrey and McKay met where she works and the couple and had planned to go to South Carolina for a traditional wedding ceremony to be officiated by her youth minister brother. But McKay lost his job, and by the time he was re-employed he was unable to get off for the wedding. They decided to go ahead and get married in Louisiana “to make it right before God,” she said.

image “We decided on a very short, simple ceremony with a couple of my friends as witnesses,” she said. “Later, when he got some time off, we would go to South Carolina for the traditional ceremony, although we would actually already be officially married.”

According to the Louisiana clerk of court's office, application for a marriage license must be made three days before the ceremony because there is a 72-hour waiting period. The applicants are asked if they have previously been married. If so, they must show how the marriage ended, such as divorce.

Other than that, all they need is a birth certificate, the $35 license fee and a Social Security card. The license must also be signed by a Louisiana minister, justice of the peace or judge with the original being returned to the clerk's office.

"It is really astonishing and disappointing to see this come up in 2009," said American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana attorney Katie Schwartzman. "The Supreme Court ruled as far back as 1963 that the government cannot tell people who they can and cannot marry."

The ACLU was preparing a letter for the Louisiana Supreme Court, which oversees the state justices of the peace, asking them to investigate Bardwell and see if they can remove him from office, Schwartzman said.

"He knew he was breaking the law, but continued to do it," Schwartzman said.
Bardwell has been a JP for 34 years and his term expires December 31, 2014.
With the attention this case has garnered, he might be leaving sooner than that.