Political Physics: Interracial Marriage = The Morning After Pill = Abortion….Or Does it?
a blogumn by Monique King-Viehland
The American Civil Liberties Union in Louisiana and the Center for Constitutional Rights and Justice are calling for the resignation of Keith Bardwell, a justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish in southeastern Louisiana. Bardwell, who is Caucasian, refused to issue a license to or preside over the nuptials for an interracial couple – Beth Humphrey, who is Caucasian, and Terence McKay, of Hammond, La., who is African-American (pictured). In a Monday morning interview on CBS News, Bardwell explained that “he had seen countless interracial couples where the children were rejected by family members, and he didn’t want to see that happen again.” Bardwell also noted that be did not prevent the couple from getting married, he just refused to perform the nuptials himself.
According to the Associated Press, Bardwell said, “he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society…therefore those children suffer and I won’t help put them through it.”
On the Early Show Saturday Edition CBS News legal analyst Lisa Bloom called for Bardwell to be “canned,” saying that “Bardwell’s actions are blatantly illegal.” Bloom is not alone. She joins the Louisiana ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights and Justice, the NAACP and Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess (aka their equivalent of a mayor) in calling for Bardwell to quit.
Now I could talk about the fact that according to a Gallup Poll “77% of Americans say they approve of marriages between blacks and whites.” Or the fact that there is no statistical evidence that supports Bardwell claims that biracial children suffer more because they are biracial. Or the fact that the jury is still out on whether or not interracial marriages have a higher rate of divorce – some experts say no and some say yes (although even the ones who say yes acknowledge that the rate is only slightly higher).
But as the debate rages about whether or not Bardwell could legally and/or morally refuse to marry interracial couples. I want to pose another question (and another).
Should justices of the peace be compelled to issue licenses to and marry interracial couples?
Should pharmacists be compelled to fill prescriptions for birth control or the “morning after pill”?
Should doctors be compelled to perform abortions?
Some people might not see the connections between these questions, but for me these questions are all “iterations” of the same question. And when you think of it that way the answer is not so simple.
I posed these questions to two of my colleagues this morning and it was very interesting. The first question was resounding yes, but things got murkier when we starting talking gay marriage and abortion. So I shared my theory that all of these questions are in effect the same question…can someone be compelled to perform an action that they fundamentally, either religiously or morally, disagree with?
It is murky even for me personally. The question of whether or not a justice of the peace should be compelled to issue licenses and marry interracial couples is clear…yes. Or whether a pharmacist should be compelled to fill a prescription for birth control or the “morning after pill”…yes. But whether or not a doctor should be compelled to perform an abortion…no. But what is the difference between a justice of the peace, a pharmacist and a doctor?
After some thought I decided that it depends on whether or not the action you are being asked to perform is a function of your job. So for example, a clear job responsibility of a justice of the peace is to perform marriages regardless of race (and in states where gay marriage is legal regardless of sexuality). So they should be compelled to perform that task. The primary responsibility of a pharmacist is to dispense prescribed medication regardless of what type of medication it is. So they should be compelled to perform that task. However, performing an abortion is not a job responsibility for most doctors, so a doctor could have a responsible expectation that they can do their job without being compelled to perform an abortion. So they should not be compelled to perform that task.
For me your choice of employment dictates whether or not you have the “right” to use your religious and/or moral beliefs as a rationale for refusing to perform a function of your job. That is the distinction between the justice of the peace, the pharmacist and the doctor. But even I recognize it is not that clear.
Several members of Congress have introduced bills that would allow pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions. And at the state level, four states – Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi and South Dakota – have laws that specifically permit pharmacists to refuse to fill valid prescriptions. On the flip side, in 2005 a Justice Ministry in Madrid ordered Judge Laura Alabau to officiate in gay weddings.
Murky. But maybe that is just me. Is it murky for you?
Should justices of the peace be compelled to issue licenses to and marry interracial couples? Should pharmacists be compelled to fill prescriptions for birth control or the “morning after pill”? Should doctors be compelled to perform abortions? Sound off in the comments and let me know what you think.
In the meantime, Keith Bardwell awaits word from the Louisiana Judiciary Commission about whether or not he will continue to be able to refuse to marry interracial couples.