Heat Builds in Interracial Marriage Denial

Calls have been intensifying for the firing or resignation of an official who refused earlier this month to marry an interracial couple.

Keith Bardwell, a white justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish in southeastern Louisiana, wouldn't issue a license to or preside over the nuptials for Beth Humphrey, who is white, and Terence McKay, of Hammond, La., who is black.

The two were later married by another area justice of the peace.

Bardwell, who's held his post more than 30 years, says interracial marriages are wrong, it's his right not to perform them, and the children of such unions face problems down the road.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Louisiana and the Center for Constitutional Rights and Justice say Bardwell should quit immediately, as does the Hammond chapter of the NAACP.

CBS News legal analyst Lisa Bloom called for Bardwell to be canned, saying on "The Early Show Saturday Edition" that Bardwell's actions are "blatantly" illegal.

McKay told David Spunt of CBS affiliate WAFB of Baton Rouge, La.,
that Bardwell's stand is "disheartening.

"Seriously, it's 2009 and we are still dealing with a form of racism," said McKay. "He's saying that 99 percent of [interracial marriage] winds up in divorce. How many people get married that winds up in divorce, black or white? ... It's unethical to me, because he's an elected official and he cannot do that."

Asked what he'd say to Bardwell, McKay responded, "Good luck. That's all I can tell him. I wish him the best. I don't wish him any harm, but he was wrong."

Blunt says Louisiana's Judicial Code of Ethics requires officials like Bardwell to "perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice."

But Bardwell insisted to WAFB, "I stand by my decision, and it is my right not to marry an interracial couple."

Bloom described Bardwell's actions as "immoral and outrageous. It's also patently illegal," since a 1967 Supreme Court ruling that interracial marriages are "absolutely legal."

"It is unlawful for anyone to refuse to perform them," she said.

"Once he is performing any marriages," Bloom continued, "he is obligated not to discriminate based on race. To me, this is a blatant violation of Louisiana and federal law and I agree with all of those who have criticized him and said he should be fired."

Bloom also took note of President Obama being the product of an interracial marriage, wondering of Bardwell, "Has he had any kind of basic awareness of who our president is? This is just shocking to me in 2009."

"He should face immediate termination," Bloom repeated. "He's refusing to follow the law in performing his duties. He's also potentially exposing his county - it's called a parish in Louisiana - to a lawsuit for race discrimination. He's really causing, I think, a lot of problems for that area, and that's why he's got to go."