National Black Justice Coalition ( NBJC ) Executive Director Sharon J. Lettman has responded to the denial of a marriage license to an opposite-sex couple in Louisiana.
"It is hard to believe that a Louisiana state official could simply refuse to follow the law of the land as set forth in Loving v. Virginia. The status of this person as a justice of the peace is something that needs to be revoked," Lettman said.
Keith Bardwell, a Louisiana justice of the peace from Tangipahoa Parish, refuses to marry interracial couples. He told the Associated Press: "I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way. 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." He said his refusal was based on concern for children they might have.
"Time and again we have seen public officials discriminate against loving, committed couples and claim that their discrimination is really motivated by concern for children," Lettman continued. "That justification is wrong when it's used to deny marriage to a couple on the basis of their race. It's wrong when it's used to prevent committed gay and lesbian couples from being able to marry. And it's our responsibility to speak out against it, whenever it happens.
"Every child who is a minority faces discrimination, exclusion and oppression at some point in their lives. It is actions like those of this state officialrefusing to marry a loving couple because of personal prejudicethat perpetuate the discrimination and racism that continue to pervade our culture.
"There is also the fact that this state official is just plain wrong. There are countless children of interracial parents who grew up to embody the strength of our families: President Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, Soledad O'Brien. And parents themselveslike Seal and Heidi Klum, former Defense Secretary William Cohen and journalist Janet Langhart. And the lists go on and on, with millions of successful families who have thrived in the face of prejudice directed at their parents and their children.
"The story of Connecticut state Rep. Jason Bartlett, also deputy director of the National Black Justice Coalition, illustrates this truth. When he grew up, his mother told him that he might not be accepted by some who are white, and might not be accepted by some who are black, because of his mixed heritage. But he learned through understanding who you are in the knowledge of your family's love, that he could overcome those obstacles.
"It is that very love of a family that helps overcome the oppressions that so many Americans continue to face. And knowing who we areas people, and as a familyis at the heart of survival in a culture that is too-often still hostile to our lives."
Lettman resides in the Washington, D.C., area and recently married a master sergeant of the United States Air Force, who returned this past July from a tour of duty in Balad, Iraq.
See www.NBJC.org .