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Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Friday, 16 October 2009 14:37 UK

US judge's mixed marriage refusal

Man marrying woman
Keith Bardwell is happy to marry couples of the same race

A white US justice of the peace has been criticised for refusing to issue marriage licences to mixed-race couples.

Keith Bardwell, of Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana, denied racism but said mixed-race children were not readily accepted by their parents' communities.

A couple he refused to marry are considering filing a complaint about him to the US Justice Department.

Mr Bardwell said he had often conducted the weddings of his black friends.

'No integration'

Mr Bardwell, who has worked in the role for 34 years, said that in his experience most interracial marriages did not last very long and estimated that he had refused applications to four couples in the past two-and-a-half years.

He said he had "piles and piles of black friends" but just did not believe in "mixing the races".

"They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else," he said.

He said he had discussed the issue with both black and white people before making his decision.

"There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," he said "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."

I try to treat everyone equally
Keith Bardwell

Mr Bardwell added that he checked the race of the couple in question, 30-year-old Beth Humphrey and 32-year-old Terence McKay, when they first phoned him requesting a marriage licence.

Ms Humphrey, who is white, said that when she phoned Mr Bardwell on 6 October to discuss getting a marriage licence signed his wife told her about his stance.

Mrs Bardwell recommended that the couple see another justice of the peace, who did agree to marry them.

Ms Humphrey said she had not expected such comments "in this day and age" and that she was looking forward to having children with her husband.

American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana attorney Katie Schwartzmann said that her organisation had requested an investigation into Mr Bardwell, describing the case as one of "bigotry".

She said the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 "that the government cannot tell people who they can and cannot marry" and that Mr Bardwell had knowingly broken the law.

However, Mr Bardwell denied mistreating anyone and said if he oversaw one mixed-race marriage, then he would have to continue to do it for everyone.

He said: "I try to treat everyone equally."



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