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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Can Judges Refuse to Officiate Gay Weddings?

Posted by on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Here's a fascinating read courtesy of the Seattle Times:

In addition to state laws against discrimination, judges are subject to an even higher bar — the code of judicial conduct — which requires them to discharge their duties without bias or prejudice.

Those same canons bar judges from joining organizations with invidious and discriminatory practices, such as the Ku Klux Klan, or engaging in outside activities that cast doubt on their ability to be impartial.

While the state’s marriage law authorizes who can perform marriages, it does not require anyone to. Performing weddings is not a judicial duty but a discretionary function judges conduct on their own time and are compensated for privately.

“Judges may perform them or not,” said Thurston County Court administrator Marti Maxwell.

“Some elect to do them, some elect to do none,” she said. “There are some who will only do them during the week or during their lunch hours or after hours or for family and friends and some who will travel to the ends of the earth to do them.”

But Anne Levinson, a retired Seattle judge who was also a key adviser in the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage, said that “if a judge says he or she is available to perform weddings, then he can’t decline some of them based on any reason that has the appearance of bias or prejudice.”

 

Comments (13) RSS

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1
Sure they can refuse, just like they can refuse to officiate at mixed race weddings.
Posted by PaulBarwick on January 17, 2013 at 12:42 PM · Report this
2
There was the case of the judge three or four years ago who refused to officiate interracial marriages. IIRC, he quickly retired in shame to avoid impeachment and disbarment.
Posted by GermanSausage on January 17, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 3
The only problem I can see is if someone resides in a county and there are no judges available to perform the ceremony.

That would be a denial of service.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on January 17, 2013 at 12:50 PM · Report this
4

This guy will perform any and all weddings:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hIcKkKID…
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on January 17, 2013 at 12:52 PM · Report this
Pick1 5
I don't see why this is an issue. Any judge that wouldn't want to officiate my marriage because I'm gay, isn't somebody I want officiating my marriage.
Posted by Pick1 on January 17, 2013 at 12:54 PM · Report this
dangerousgift 6
I am a law student and my dad is a judge in California. When I was a kid I would go with him on Saturdays to "marriage duty" which was a voluntary opening of the court on the weekend to accommodate people who couldn't come during normal business hours. This meant a lot of migrant and field workers.

Services were performed in English or Spanish. They cost $30, which was a price the judges who come set. Judges are civil servants on a salary so there's no such thing as overtime. I was there to act as a witness if the couple didn't bring one and to fill out the marriage licenses while my dad performed the oath. For this, I made $5 a wedding and got a trip to In-n-Out.

The thing about marriage duty, and performing marriages in general is that it's ENTIRELY discretionary. A judge can elect to perform marriages for no one, marriages only for friends or family. They set their own rules. In part this is because they're no the only ones who can officiate. Sea captains, online priests, plenty of people can legally officiate a wedding. The dar side of this is that a judge can refuse to marry anyone they want and still stay on the right side of the law.

I can tell you the judges in my dad's district did weekend marriages because they were good people. They had a sense of duty to their community and when they saw a need they woke up early on the weekend to meet it. Those weddings were some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. Tearful, cowboy booted campesinos trying to keep composed, strawberry stains on their hands. Older couples who'd found themselves later in life. It made a huge impact on me.

If a judge refuses to marry someone because they are a bigot, then they are in the minority and not long for death. Of course I wouldn't be shocked if a judge was a homophobe, but those backwards attitudes cannot and will not outlast the progression of civil rights. Any judge witnessing two people in love over and over again is helpless but to be persuaded by it.
More...
Posted by dangerousgift on January 17, 2013 at 1:01 PM · Report this
7
@3 there is never a lack of people to perform marriages. Go to the church of light website and you can be vested with the authority to perform marriages in a few minutes. It's harder to become a notary public than to gain the authority to officiate marriages.
Posted by Fr0zt on January 17, 2013 at 1:12 PM · Report this
Looking For a Better Read 8
@5 - Agreed. I'd want to know if a judge had a problem with marrying me (though I'm hetero and already married, so not likely to be an issue); if he/she did, I certainly wouldn't want to have their negativity anywhere near my vows.
Posted by Looking For a Better Read on January 17, 2013 at 1:19 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 9
It probably isn't a big deal in Seattle, where it would take all of 3 minutes to find dozens of people who are willing to officiate a gay wedding.

Where it could be a problem is in a rural conservative area, where officiants are few and far between. A gay couple may have few other options but to go to a judge, even if he/she is homophobic, since it is perfectly legal for priests/ministers to refuse to marry them.

If the state has legalized marriage, then it is obligated to find some method to provide that service. Somebody (I don't care if it is a judge or county clerk or whatever) must perform that function, in the name of the state, whether they like it or not.

Any judge who refuses to conduct gay weddings (but is perfectly willing to do other weddings) should be removed from the bench. Anyone that biased cannot claim to be impartial enough to be a judge.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on January 17, 2013 at 2:50 PM · Report this
JensR 10
Judge don't wanna do his job = fire judge, get new judge. Problem solved.

People think judges shouldn't have to do their job = idiots, ignore. Problem solved.
Posted by JensR http://ohyran.se on January 17, 2013 at 3:48 PM · Report this
11
@10: Did you not read the part where it explicitly says it's not part of their duties?
Posted by NateMan on January 17, 2013 at 3:53 PM · Report this
12
People who don't read posts they comment on = idiots, ignore. Problem solved.
Posted by Yeah. We're talking to you. Moron. on January 17, 2013 at 5:22 PM · Report this
kk in seattle 13
Anne has it right. Judges don't have to do weddings, but if they hold themselves out to the public as doing weddings, then they can't discriminate, sorry.
Posted by kk in seattle on January 17, 2013 at 6:52 PM · Report this

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