A Louisiana justice of the peace who drew criticism for refusing to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple has resigned, the secretary of state's office said Tuesday.
Keith Bardwell, a justice of the peace for Tangipahoa Parish's 8th Ward, was widely criticized after he refused to grant a marriage license to Beth McKay and Terence McKay, an interracial couple who ultimately got a marriage license from another justice of the peace in the same parish.
The McKays hired an attorney and protested the justice's actions.
Despite a national uproar and a call by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for him to lose his license, Bardwell, 56, said in October that he had no regrets. "It's kind of hard to apologize for something that you really and truly feel down in your heart you haven't done wrong," he told CNN affiliate WAFB.
He said he is not racist and does not treat black people differently. He said he does not perform mixed-race marriages because he is concerned about the children of such marriages.
At that time, Bardwell did not return calls from CNN.
Beth McKay, 30, said she was speaking with Bardwell's wife by phone about getting a marriage license and was shocked to be asked whether they were an interracial couple.
"She said, 'Well, what's the deal? Is he black, or are you black?' And so I answered her question, and then she just said, 'Well, we don't do interracial marriages.'"
Terence McKay, 32, said, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but he's absolutely wrong on all aspects of his stance." McKay added, "If it wasn't for interracial couples today, we wouldn't have our president. So for him to take that outlook, that's still like 1800s or something."
"A lot of people have come up to us and said, 'You know, we're in interracial relationships as well,' not just black and white, and just encouraged us to stand up for our rights and to speak out against things like this," Beth McKay said.
The incident "caught us completely off guard," said Terence McKay, "and we're just trying to live our lives."
The National Urban League called for an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, saying in a statement that Bardwell's actions were "a huge step backward in social justice."
The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out race-based limitations on marriage in the landmark 1967 Loving v. Virginia case. In the unanimous decision, the court said that "Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."