Married With Discrimination
Keith Bardwell, a justice of the peace in Louisiana for 34 years, doesn't believe he is racist. He believes letting "them" use his bathroom and enter his house is evidence of that. He has "piles" of black friends he says. "I don't think I've mistreated anybody," he told the Associated Press this week. "I treat them just like everyone else." Except of course, that this "justice of the peace" has repeatedly defied the Constitution by refusing to issue marriage licenses to interracial couples. "I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," says an unapologetic Bardwell. "Its wrong." Bardwell told a local paper that he was concerned for the children born of a mixed race relationship, and that he doesn't believe interracial marriages last.
SMC students had an entirely different message for the veteran justice of peace this week. "I think that's racist," says Min Kim, who has not decided on her major.
"I think it's ridiculous and outrageous and I don't think a person like that deserves to have any sort of control over peoples lives," says Emily Melver, another SMC student who hasn't decided what to major in. "They should take away his license."
Anthropology major Sally Khakshooy also agrees. "In this day and age you have to be open-minded. If they are not allowed to be married, he shouldn't be conducting marriages."
The Examiner reported this week that the couple who were refused a marriage license were told by Bardell that 99 percent of interracial marriages end up in divorce, and that the decision not to marry them would be in their best interest. Beth McKay, however, has a different take on the blatant racism and discrimination.
"It's so unfair because he's projecting to the community that this is something that's not acceptable, that it's inappropriate," Beth McKay told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "And in turn that makes people feel that it is, that it is inappropriate to date or to marry interracially."
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled on this issue some forty years ago. "The freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State," agreed the nine Supreme Court Justices of the landmark civil rights case in 1967. "Loring and Virginia," as the case is known, is attributed with ending race-based legal restrictions on marriage. Keith Bardwell, it seems, chose to take the law and civil liberties into his own hands, admitting to denying four interracial couples marriage certificates within the last two-and-a-half years. Not surprisingly, many people are outraged that this could occur in 2009, and have called for the Bardwell's resignation.
"Marriages now in general don't work anyway," says SMC student Sonya Allahyar, an English major who hopes to transfer to Georgetown, and one day become a judge. Though she is not a believer in the longevity of marriage, Allahyar does believe that everyone should be treated equally. "They're adults [and it's their] civil rights. I mean, come on, it's love, if they really want it, they'll make it work."
A justice of the peace is defined by Merriam Webster's dictionary as "a local magistrate empowered chiefly to administer summary justice in minor cases, to commit for trial, to administer oaths and perform marriages."
MSNBC reported this week that interracial marriages account for more than seven percent of total marriages in the U.S.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal sided with the slighted couple, joining the call for Bardwell to lose his justice of the peace license. His removal may not be as simple as it sounds, however. CNN reports that only a body of the Louisiana Supreme Court can remove a justice of the peace, and an investigation may take up to a year. Even then, the justice of the peace has a right to defend the decision.
Meanwhile, the outspoken Bardwell says he has no regrets about his actions. "It's kind of hard to apologize for something that you really and truly feel down in your heart you haven't done wrong." Dig a little deeper, Justice.