Friday, October 16, 2009

A Marriage Parable for Our Time

Keith Bardwell is a justice of the peace in a state where, despite contentious debate and strong public sentiment opposing such pairings, a formerly banned type of marriage is now legal. He recently refused to issue a marriage license to a local couple, the law be damned, citing concerns for any children the couple might wish to raise and his certainty that their kinds of marriages don't last. In fact, he's done this four times in the past two and a half years.

Sigh. We've heard this plenty of times in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California, haven't we?

Except that we haven't. The couple in question is straight and male-female, and the state in question is Louisiana. So what about these two people triggered JP Bardwell's won't-someone-think-of-the-children lobe, with a touch of you-people-can't-stay-married palsy? Oh. The woman is white. The man is black. And no way in hell are they getting married under Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell's watch.

But don't get the wrong idea about Bardwell! He's not a racist! Look, he says so himself:
"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told The Associated Press on Thursday. "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."

See? He has piles of black friends! He even lets them use his bathroom! How can you call him racist?

Bardwell clarified that conversations with both black and white people, and his own observations, have led him to conclude that mixed-race children aren't accepted by either blacks or whites. And that their parents don't stay married for long. The only thing lacking in his argument is the citation of the passages from Leviticus forbidding interracial marriage; otherwise, it's a spot-on simulation of arguments we've heard from other people--including, sadly, county clerks and other people whose job descriptions include "issue marriage licenses to qualified couples"--who rail against gay folk seeking marriage equality.

Hey, I have gay friends. I just don't want them to be allowed to get married because gays screw everything that moves so they'd probably just get divorced anyway and oh dear god people will make fun of their kids.

Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay, the most recent couple to be denied by Bardwell, plan to file a discrimination suit. I suspect the repercussions will be very, very interesting should the court find that perceptions about a certain class of people's ability to form lasting pair-bonds, and predictions about society's treatment of any children they might raise, have no bearing on those people's rights to enter into a marriage contract. I only wish Bardwell had tossed in a religious objection as well, but we can't have everything.

1 comment:

Damien said...

His disgusting schtick made me nearly sick to my stomach! What a tosser...