State Judge Admonished for Refusing to Perform Gay Marriages

A state judge in Washington was admonished for refusing to perform same-sex weddings in his judicial capacity but still performing opposite-sex marriage. He has apparently now stopped performing weddings completely so he doesn’t have to perform the ones he disagrees with.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor was admonished by state judicial authorities Friday for saying last year he would not perform weddings for same-sex couples — even though he was doing them for opposite-sex couples.

The Washington Judicial Conduct Commission announced the sanction Friday, saying that state law does not allow discrimination based on sexual orientation. The admonishment amounts to a warning and was the least-severe punishment available.

It came about as part of a stipulated agreement with the socially conservative judge.

Tabor did not return a telephone message left at the Superior Court, but the commission said Tabor has since stopped performing weddings as a judge.

This is the correct result. Same-sex marriages are legal in Washington and state law explicitly forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A minister has the legal right to refuse to perform any marriage, but a judge is an official of the state and cannot refuse to perform a same-sex wedding any more than they could refuse to perform an interracial or interreligious one.

11 comments on this post.
  1. Gregory in Seattle:

    In Washington, there is no obligation for a judge to officiate at weddings. However, it is a violation of the law, judicial standards and the Washington Bar rules to engage in discrimination of any kind in the course of judicial duties. It is kind of sad that he would rather give up the fairly lucrative sideline of officiating marriages than perform a legal service for gay couples.

  2. eric:

    This is the correct result.

    Its a gray area for me. If performing weddings is part of your job description, and you aren’t doing it, why the frak am I paying you my tax money? The local post office worker can’t simply opt not to deliver mail and expect to get paid, why should the judge have the option of not performing a duty for which he was hired to do?

    I say ‘gray area’ because judges do lots of other things too. There could be very good, nonideological reasons for a judge to not perform marriages (having to do with time spent doing other judgy things). However, choosing not to do that part of your job simply because you don’t want to is not, IMO, a legitimate reason. Its grounds for being fired.

  3. Gvlgeologist, FCD:

    At first, conservatives whined about the horrible idea that churches would be required to perform gay marriages. Of course this was never true, and I would think that conservatives would be relieved that the ceremony was civil rather than religious.

    But of course, the truth is that it is simple bigotry, and this judge simply cannot countenance the idea that a gay couple could have the same rights that he does to get married even in a civil setting.

  4. colnago80:

    Re eric @ #2

    I don’t know that it is a requirement for judges to perform weddings in most jurisdictions. Interestingly enough, apparently in California, certain politicians can perform weddings. After the SCOTUS decision on Prop 8 came down the mayors of San Francisco and Los Angeles performed the first same sex marriages.

  5. eric:

    @4: my tirade might be more appropriate for civil servants attached to the local court house. In states and districts like what Gregory mentions – where they can do it but its a side-job, not part of their regular job – then my argument wouldn’t apply.

    So take it as a generalism: if your job description includes performing weddings, ‘not wanting to” is not a legitimate excuse for not perfoming weddings. That goes for minor bureaucrats and judges alike, and doesn’t apply to judges for whom performing weddings is not part of their job description.

  6. Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy:

    I don’t know Washington law on this; in New York state, judges are allowed but not expected to perform weddings. That is, they aren’t expected to be available to officiate at a particular time, or do at least X weddings a year, or anything like that. For that, there are city and county employees whose job is specifically to perform civil ceremonies.

    My father was a NY judge, and occasionally would come home and tell us that someone had turned up at the courthouse asking if there was a judge available; whether he, or anyone, did the wedding depended on the schedule for things they were already committed to, ranging from hearing cases to having lunch with someone. He also did very occasional weddings for friends in his off hours.

    He didn’t get paid extra for any of that, so I suspect Tabor is not giving up a “lucrative sideline,” unless the occasional free meal if he’s invited to that shape of wedding, rather than giving someone ten minutes in the courthouse.

  7. tubi:

    Re: colnago80 @4

    Same in Minnesota. After Amendment 1 failed last November, the legislature moved to implement marriage equality. The mayor of Minneapolis was out at 12:01 AM the day it became legal to perform several ceremonies.

  8. iknklast:

    So, it looks like same-sex marriage really IS going to destroy traditional marriage – if none of the judges will perform marriages anymore. That would be amusing, but not a good overall result in the long term.

  9. whheydt:

    Apparently, the judges that routinely do weddings in San Francisco City Hall are retired and volunteer their time. That was the case when my son got married there last January. The retired judge was quite a character.

  10. adbass:

    What is troublesome to me is how has his bigotry affected the rulings on certain cases he’s heard in the past. Hopefully he recuses himself from hearing such cases in the future…..or better yet, just retire.

  11. pianoman, Heathen & Torontophile:

    It does make a person wonder about his judicial fairness in cases that involve parties of a certain demographic he may not like.

    a judge performed my wedding, I gave him $300 to do it. So i think it’s a side gig as opposed to any judicial requirement.

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