BATON ROUGE, La. — A justice of the peace who refuses to marry interracial couples resigned Tuesday, after weeks of calls for his ouster from civil rights groups and several public officials, including the governor.
Keith Bardwell quit with a one-sentence statement to Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne: "I do hereby resign the office of Justice of the Peace for the Eighth Ward of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, effective November 3, 2009."
Gov. Bobby Jindal called the resignation "long overdue."
Beth Humphrey, who is white, has said she and her now-husband, Terence McKay, who is black, received their marriage license from the parish clerk of court, where they also got a list of people qualified to perform the ceremony.
When she called Bardwell's office on Oct. 6 , Humphrey said Bardwell's wife told her that the justice wouldn't sign their marriage license because they were a "mixed couple."
When questioned, Bardwell, who is white, acknowledged he routinely avoids marrying interracial couples because he believes children born to them end up suffering. "There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," he said in an October interview. "I think those children suffer, and I won't help put them through it."
Humphrey and McKay have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit. Their lawyer, Laura Catlett. said the resignation won't stop the lawsuit, which also names Bardwell's wife as a defendant.
Bardwell was elected in 1975 as justice of the peace in Ponchatoula, 55 miles north of New Orleans. His term was set to run through 2014, and he said before the flap that he did not intend to run for re-election.