Friday, October 16, 2009

This Is Still America - Sometimes

It was riveting television.

Richard Nixon, President of the United States, shaking his jowels and intoning the famous words one should never actually say, even if they're true, because the mocking will know no bounds:
I'm not a crook.
Now, with special thanks to Jonathan Turley and Paul Kennedy, we have the words of the estimable Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace for the 8th Ward in Louisiana's Tangipahoa Parish:
I am not a racist.
Of course, backing up these sorts of claims is different than making them. For Nixon, there was that whole messy obstruction of justice thing. And the authorization of illegal spying. And the illegal bombing of Campbodia. And, aw, you get the point. For Bardwell, there's that pesky refusal to give marriage licenses to interracial couples.

But there's always the defense. For Nixon:
When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.
For Bardwell:
"I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. "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."
You fill your home, you give people the key to your bathroom (I'm assuming maybe a special one for the "coloreds"), piles of them, piles and piles. And look at the grief you get just because you violate the rights of a few interracial couples. But for the best of motives: It will be hard on the kids.
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, he said.

"There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage," Bardwell said. "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."

What a softy. The children must not be conceived (at least not in wedlock) because life will be hard for them - at least among his circle of friends.

Justice of the Morals Bardwell may believe he's doing God's work when he tries to stop those mixed race children from being born. He probably does believe he's not a racist and that all those black folks he has over to use the bathroom prove it. It doesn't matter. The rules count, and one of those rules is the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, right there in the 14th Amendment. Another of those rules, premised on the Equal Protection Clause, was set forth in the aptly named Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia.

Mildred and Richard Loving (she African American, he white) were married in D.C., then moved to Virginia. They were charged and convicted of violating the state's ban on interracial marriage. When their case made it to the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Warren writing for the Court explained the simple rule:
There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause.
That was 1967.

Of course, Bardwell and the morals police aren't alone in thinking the rules don't apply. So it's a pleasure to find that sometimes they do.

From Russ Bensing at The Briefcase comes the news that Ohio's 8th District Court of Appeals affirmed a suppression motion in State v. Johnson last week. That happens a lot in the 8th where the combination of a bench that believes in the Fourth Amendment and police departments that don't result in a lot of bad searches and seizures getting thrown out. In Johnson, the court explained that
merely because appellee was in a car parked in an area where several people were loitering on a sidewalk does not give the state justification to search appellee or the car he was occupying.
Yep. Good call. Better, Russ tells us, is what the trial judge had said. His entire written opinion explaining why the motion to suppress would be granted, and from which I took the title of this post, reads:
This is still America. Motion granted.

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