On the refusing of a marriage licence …

On the refusing of a marriage licence …

… for a mixed race couple.

Yes, really.

In Louisiana.

In 2009, just in case any of us thought that we’d entered some weird space-time continuum and were back in 1959.

The full story is reported here in “The Guardian”, but can be summarised with this extract – my use of bold:

“A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage licence to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have.

Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa parish, said it was his experience that most interracial marriages did not last long.

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

Bardwell said he asked everyone who called about marriage if they were a mixed race couple. If they were, he did not marry them.”

The bit about the bathroom usage immediately reminded me of a wonderful (and recommended) book I read a few months ago called “The Help”, set in Mississippi in 1962, about a group of maids who work with one white woman to tell their stories (“black women raise white children but can’t be trusted not to steal the silver”) as part of the then burgeoning civil rights movement. In the book, it is very much the norm for “the help” to have their own toilet/washroom facilities and one employer feels societal pressure to build such an arrangement for her maid in a corner of the garage, rather than risk her family being contaminated by sharing the same facilities within the house.

Doesn’t it come across that this attitude lingers on in Louisiana, 47 years later? Quite incredible that permitting people of a different race to share your urinating environment is viewed as a mark of racial tolerance …

And how can it even be legal for anyone to refuse to marry two people on the grounds of race? Will watch the outcome of this story with interest.


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