On this dayOct 06, 2009

White Louisiana Official Denies Marriage License for Interracial Couple


On October 6, 2009, Beth Humphrey, a white woman from Hammond, Louisiana, called Keith Bardwell, a white justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, to ask him to sign a license for her to marry Terence McKay, a Black man. Mr. Bardwell’s wife informed Ms. Humphrey that he would not sign a marriage license for an interracial couple. 

Mr. Bardwell, a justice of the peace for over 30 years, later estimated he had denied marriage licenses to several interracial couples during the previous two and a half years. After his refusal was publicized and generated controversy, Mr. Bardwell defended his actions, insisting that he “does not believe in mixing races in that way.”  

Ms. Humphrey expressed shock at Mr. Bardwell’s views: “That was one thing that made this so unbelievable. It's not something you expect in this day and age.” 

Throughout most of the 20th century, there were legal bans on interracial marriage. In 1967, in Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down such bans, holding that they violated the Equal Protection Clause. But resistance to enforcing this constitutional mandate was slow. The State of Alabama did not change the prohibition on interracial marriage in its constitution until 2000.


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