As the fallout from the refusal by a New Orleans official to marry a interracial couple continues, the issue of the extent to which the state has the right to intervene in individuals’ freedom to marry a person of their choice is again gaining center stage.
Earlier this month, justice of the peace in Louisiana Keith Bardwell refused to issue a marriage license to a mixed-race couple on the grounds that such unions tend not to last and citing concern about children that may be born to the couple.
His decision has caused a firestorm of criticism, with accusations of racism and calls for the official to stand down.
"This is a clear violation of constitutional rights and federal and state law. … disciplinary action should be taken immediately, including the revoking of his license," said the state’s Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, quoted by CNN.
Meanwhile, the couple, which was married by another state official, is planning to sue Bardwell.
A refusal to perform an interracial marriage ceremony goes against the landmark 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia in which the justices stated unanimously that the Constitution protects the individual’s freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race and this freedom cannot be infringed by the state.