In Louisiana this week, Keith Bardwell, a Tangipahoa Parish Justice of the Peace, refused to give a marriage license to a local couple because the man is black and the woman is white. You know, just like the president’s parents.
Tangipahoa Parish (motto: “More Than a Great Place to Live”) had a previous claim to fame. It was a location for the TV series based on the film In the Heat of the Night, where a detective was falsely accused of murder because he was black.
“I’m not a racist,” the JP told the Hammond Daily Star. “I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house. My main concern is for the children.” He didn’t refuse to issue the license, he merely “recused” himself on the basis of this “concern.”
Such “concerns” were explored by the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v Virginia and found in violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the 14th Amendment. The Court’s decision was unanimous. Chief Justice Earl Warren: “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”
Justice Bardwell receives a modest annual salary (about $6,000) to perform the public’s work on a part-time basis. We assume he is sworn to uphold the Constitution, and that is one part of his part-time job he can’t “recuse”" himself from.
Louisiana judges, even JPs, are elected. Mr. Bardwell is Republican, but his act received bipartisan condemnation: