Watch CBSN Live

Judge Who Denied Interracial Marriage Sued

A Louisiana justice of the peace is facing a federal lawsuit for refusing to perform a marriage ceremony for a black man and a white woman.

The couple, Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay, filed the suit against Keith Bardwell on Tuesday, alleging that Bardwell violated their civil rights when he refused to perform the ceremony because they were of different races. The suit seeks financial penalties because of mental anguish and emotional distress.

Bardwell, a justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, has said he routinely "recuses" himself from marrying interracial couples because he believes such marriages cause harm to the couples' children.

Bardwell told CBS' "The Early Show" yesterday he doesn't see what the problem is with what he did and that the couple is now married anyway.

"I'm sorry, you know, that I offended the couple, but I did help them and tell them who to go to and to get married," he said. "And they went and got married, and they should be happily married, and I don't see what the problem is now."

Bardwell told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith, "I've had countless numbers of people that was born in that situation, and that they claim that the blacks or the whites didn't accept the children. And I didn't want to put the children in that position."

Bardwell also said he does not issue marriage licenses, he just performs the ceremonies.

However, according to Humphrey, Bardwell wouldn't issue them a marriage license. Humphrey says she initially spoke to Bardwell's wife, who said her husband would not issue the license because they are an interracial couple.

Humphrey said, "I was just completely shocked. I had no words."

McKay added, "He's not going to marry us because your black, and I'm white. ... It's 2009."

Bardwell denied on "The Early Show" that he broke any laws.

"The law says that I cannot deny mixed race marriages," he said. "And that means prevent them from getting married. And I did not prevent them getting married."

View CBS News In