The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.

Once upon a time, in forty-one of America's fifty states, LA justice Keith Bardwell would be lauded for his refusal to marry a black-white interracial couple: especially a black man - white woman combination. Miscegenation statutes, which first appeared in the 1600s, were a set of laws designed to bar interracial marriage - chiefly between whites and "non-whites" - in the United States. According to historians, these laws were enacted just as much to ensure the stability of the slave labor force, as they were to ensure Puritan morality.

Although varied by states, miscegenation laws carried with them a series of penalties from fines to prison terms. The punishment for this "crime" could be imposed upon the couple who violated the laws and anyone who would "encourage, counsel, aid, or abet" them in such an "unholy marriage."

In choosing to refuse to marry Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay, justice Bardwell is honoring Louisiana's past hatred of intermarriage that it (and the other forty states) saw as "corruption of the races."

Justice Bardwell seems to stand alone in keeping the state's disappointing tradition alive. Republican Governor Bobby Jindal and his LA peers are calling for disciplinary actions against Bardwell for his behavior. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. notes that the judge's decision "is an example of the ugly bigotry that divided our country for too long."

Here is hoping that other individuals (legistlators and "regular" citizens) continue to take a stand against reverting back to America's shameful past.

We encourage you to do your part by starting an honest and open dialogue with someone of another race or in a younger age group around this topic. Be willing to listen without judging. Be willing to learn and not just teach.

Reading justice Bardwell's comment would make it seem as if he is sincere in his desire to "protect" the potential offspring of this couple. While our views on this matter differ significantly to that of judge Bardwell, we would like to extend a public invitation to him to dialog with us about his decision. We promise to put aside our prejudices and to listen with an honest and open ear.

Source: Virginia Hasn't Always Been for Lovers by Phyl Newbeck

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