Friday, October 16, 2009

Judicial Time Warp: Louisiana Judge Refuses to Officiate Interracial Marriages!

I have checked, and this is not a story from The Onion. Apparently, Keith Bardwell, a Louisiana Justice of the Peace, actually refuses to officiate marriages of interracial couples. Bardwell says he opposes interracial marriages because multiracial children "suffer" (yeah -- from bigots like Bardwell).

Bardwell also offers one of the most amusing versions of "I'm not a racist but. . . ." Bardwell says that:
I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way. . . .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.
Colored people can use his bathroom, but they are unfit to marry whites. Good one, Bardwell. And the "piles and piles" imagery is not flattering.

Bardwell's Stance Violates Constitution
In 1967 the Supreme Court decided Loving v. Virginia, which held that state prohibitions of interracial marriage violated the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause. Even at that time, only a handful of states banned interracial marriage.

The Court also rejected the specious assertion -- which Bardwell has also made -- that banning interracial marriage did not discriminate on the basis of race because neither blacks nor whites could marry outside of their race. Banning interracial marriage, however, prohibited blacks from doing things that whites could do (e.g. marry whites) and vice versa. Also, the Court held that the laws were designed to foster white racial purity -- not to promote racial equality. Someone needs to bring Bardwell up to speed -- FAST!

Better yet--the state should take steps to remove Bardwell from his position. Apparently, the ACLU is already working to get him fired. Bardwell, however, says he will resign before he changes his policy. Given his archaic views on race, Bardwell's resignation is probably the best possible outcome!

UPDATE: A new, shocking "fact" has emerged in this case. According to USA Today:
Bardwell, who has been a JP for 34 years, says the state attorney general told him years ago that he would eventually get into trouble for not performing interracial marriages. . . ."I told him if I do, I’ll resign. . . .I have rights too. I’m not obligated to do that just because I’m a justice of the peace."
Apparently, a state law enfrocement official knew that a judicial officer was engaging in racial discrimination, but did nothing about it.


James H said...

I looked at this issue today. A clarification that seems to have started with the newspaper reporting of thiis issue.

Louisiana Justices of the Peace really do not "issue" Marriage Licenses. Now after a ceremony they or the Judge or Minister that performed it sign the License that has been issued.

Second he is not really required to marry anyone. If someone shows up at this house and wants to get married and he can tell them to jump into a Lake. JOPS do not recieve a "fee" for marraiges.

However as I noted once he started doing marraiges that is what opened him up.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Even if the JP is not required to marry anyone, the JP cannot refuse to do so on the basis of race. That distinction is not minor; it's very real and substantial.

Also, if the JP's signature is necessary for the document to become legally valid, then he is not a bystander to the process. As a "judge," he gives the license legal effect.

Neither one of these nuances excuses the this man's behavior. He should be removed from office (after he gets a chance to be heard, of course).

liberal dissent said...

Hmmm, was going to say that a justice of the peace is not necessarily a judge, but apparently in Lousiana they are. Weird. I also note that a few minutes of research reveals it's the state attorney's job to educate incoming JPs on their duties, though not sure who has authority over disciplining or removing them.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

In a lot of jurisdictions they are judges.They perform more ministerial duties, but they are considered judicial officers. The state attorney is responsible for enforcing the law in the jurisdiction. The JP's behavior is not legal.

PS: In the famous Marbury v Madison case, Marbury was seeking his commission to serve as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia. It was a judicial appointment.

liberal dissent said...

Even so, in most jurisdictions the state attorney is (or should be) leery of going directly after a judicial officer, even a low-ranking one, based on how they carry out their duties.

And not sure what a federal Justice of the Peace looked like at the turn of the 19th century, but I'm sure it was quite different than anything we have now, at least at the Article III level.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

LD: I would agree with you -- if the judge had not basically admitted to unconstitutional performance of his judicial role!

Anonymous said...

And the "piles and piles" imagery is not flattering.

LOL! A priceless comment, Darren. (They use his bathroom -- WT...? The guy is creepy, to say the least.)

BTW, the word verification is, appropriately, disgu.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Thanks! I am surprised that more loonies have not tried to defend this guy. Most of them are on the Drudge Report. I read through the comments and "learned" that Bill Clinton had a biracial child and that liberals just have jungle fever....Oy vey!

mbu said...

"I read through the comments and "learned" that Bill Clinton had a biracial child..."

Well, this I can believe. I don't get the impression Bubba was the discriminating type, particularly in that kind of thing.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

MBU: Will the next round of allegations include alien abduction?

Aspasia said...

"Piles and piles..."

I read that and I immediately recalled the schematics of the Transatlantic slaving barges and how they had their black African "passengers" (er, I mean, cargo) laid out like sardines...piles and piles.

Ugh. And his equally asinine assertion about marriage and children. Of course! Children, interracial or not, are only born within wedlock! Srsly, dude. That's never been true.

So, because he doesn't segregate his bathroom, he's not a racist?

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Aspasia: You're right on the money!

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