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Fascism and Big Business by Daniel Guerin

Thursday, October 29, 2009

“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way”

HOUSTON—The refusal of a judge to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple in Hammond, Louisiana, has outraged many.

Beth Humphrey, a 30-year-old Hammond resident who works for a marketing company, called Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, October 6 about getting a marriage license.

Humphrey is white. The man she planned to marry, 32-year-old welder Terence McKay, is Black.

The justice’s wife asked if the couple was interracial and told her that Bardwell would not sign the license if they were.
“We are used to the closet racism, but we’re not going to tolerate that overt racism from an elected official,” Humphrey told CNN.

“I don’t do interracial marriages because I don’t want to put children in a situation they didn’t bring on themselves,” Bardwell told the press.

“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” he told AP, adding that he had “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.”

“I simply can’t believe he can do that. That’s blatant discrimination,” Humphrey told the Hammond Star Tribune. Humphrey and McKay got a certificate signed October 9 by another justice and married. “This doesn’t take care of the problem,” Humphrey told CNN. Bardwell has “been in his position for 34 years. So, it doesn’t take care of the problems that we have to deal with on a daily basis.”

The couple has support from many in Hammond as indicated by letters in the papers. David Hyde, a 51-year-old musician in Hammond, told the Militant, “We need to organize some protests of this outrage.”

In 1908 Louisiana officials adopted statutes declaring that “concubinage between the Caucasian or white race and any person of the Negro or black race” is a felony subject to imprisonment from one month to one year, with or without hard labor.

In 1921 the state prohibited “Negro and white families” from living in the same dwelling place and in 1932 added that “no person or corporation shall rent an apartment house or other like structure to a person who is not of the same race as the other occupants.”

That same year the state prohibited “Negroes and Indians” from marrying each other. In 1952 the state prohibited marriage between whites and “persons of color,” stiffening the penalty to up to $1,000 and/or five years imprisonment. The Louisiana statutes were voided by the 1967 Supreme Court verdict in the case Loving v. Virginia.

In 1958 Richard Loving, a bricklayer who was white, and Mildred Jeter, Black and Native American, married in Washington, D.C., because interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia, where they lived.

A few weeks after they returned home they were arrested for violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924. This law forbade those interracial couples that marry out of state from returning as husband and wife. They were sentenced to one year in jail. They received suspended sentences after agreeing not to return to Virginia together for 25 years.

In 1963, as mobilizations led by Black working people against segregation reached a high point, the Lovings decided to fight the reactionary law. They filed a lawsuit that slowly made its way through the courts. The state courts held that Virginia had legitimate purposes “to preserve the racial integrity of its citizens,” and to prevent “the corruption of blood.”

In a 1967 ruling the Supreme Court overturned all the previous decisions upholding the ban. The court said, “The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. 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.”

At the time 16 states banned marriage between people of different races. South Carolina’s constitutional ban wasn’t removed until 1998 and Alabama’s only in 2000.

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